Relatives of Madrid crash victims help identify charred bodies


MADRID, Spain -- Relatives of the 181 victims of the Colombian Avianca jumbo jet crash today helped medical examiners in the arduous task of identifying the charred remains pulled from the wreckage.

Authorities said Tuesday only 52 bodies had been identified before grieving family members had to be called in to sort through personal belongings and to view the remains.


About 50 relatives -- including the children of Tulio Hernandez, the doomed Boeing 747's pilot -- arrived in Madrid on a special Avianca flight from Bogota, Colombia.

They joined dozens of others from Latin America, France, Italy and elsewhere who waited at Madrid's Barajas airport more than 24 hours outside the hanger turned into a makeshift morgue.

Madrid's civil governor, Jose Maria Rodriguez, earlier refused to allow the relatives to see the charred remains, saying the sight was too 'macabre.'

A judge Tuesday ordered 16 of the unidentified bodies buried in the town cemetery at Coslada near the airport because they were decomposed.

Investigators sought evidence at the disaster site that could explain why the jetliner -- coming from Paris and heading to Caracas and Bogota -- crashed and burned about 5 miles short of the Madrid airport early Sunday.


A group of Spanish 747 pilots said at a news conference Tuesday they agreed with aviation officials that a burning engine -- seen by witnesses and reported by survivors -- could not alone have explained the tragedy.

Preliminary conclusions about the accident's causes were not expected for days or weeks, said a spokesman for the investigating team, which includes four U.S. government experts and two from the Boeing Co.

Sources said one of the jet's two 'black boxes' -- the cockpit voice recorder -- might be opened in Madrid. The other box, the flight data recorder, probably will be sent to Washington for analysis, officials said.

Doctors said the condition of the 11 survivors at local hospitals improved.

The youngest survivor, 20-month-old Ludovic Negers of France, was taken off intravenous feeding and sat up on his own, crying and asking for his mother andfather. Elizabeth and Patrick Negers also survived the crash but were recovering at separate hospitals.

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