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Spanish judge orders plane crash site cleanup

Date: 9/25/2008 12:36 PM

Associated Press Writer

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered a cleanup of the site of last month’s plane crash in Madrid in which 154 people died, after a newspaper ran photos of clothes and personal effects still strewn on the ground there.

The photos in El Mundo show a red-and-yellow Spanish soccer jersey and other items of clothing in at least one area of the crash site. A story accompanying the shots said there are also scorched books, muddied photos and many other personal effects that spilled out of the Spanair MD-82’s cargo holds.

El Mundo said the photos were taken Wednesday, more than a month after the Aug. 20 crash of the plane, which was bound for the Canary Islands.

Judge Juan Javier Perez, who is leading into a probe into the possibility of criminal liability in the accident, said the general state of the site “apparently … does not correspond” with the pictures in El Mundo, according to a statement released by the Madrid Superior Court of Justice.

The Development Ministry, which overseas a civil aviation panel staging a separate probe on what caused the accident, said that from the time of the crash until Sept. 12, the judge had barred crews from removing any personal effects from the crash site. It said this was to allow experts combing through the wreckage to do their work.

On Sept. 12 the judge lifted this ban, but Spanair immediately asked him to reinstate it so the company could have an expert of its own examine the site, and the judge agreed, a ministry official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry rules.

Perez has now ordered a cleanup because that examination by Spanair has concluded, the court statement said.

The Spanair plane crashed on takeoff, hitting the ground tail-first and bouncing three times as it skidded across a grassy area next to the runway, then exploded in flames and largely disintegrated.

No cause has been established, but a preliminary report by the crash probe panel says the plane tried to take off without deploying its wing flaps — which provide extra lift on takeoff — and the pilot did not know this because a cockpit alarm that was supposed to warn of this problem failed to go off.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

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