175 Feared Dead in Brazil Plane Crash -- Patrice?


No Complaints here

A passenger jet crashed and burst into flames after skidding off a runway at Brazil's busiest airport Tuesday and barreling across a busy highway during rush hour, officials said. All 175 people on board were feared dead.

The crash happened in a driving rain on a runway at Congonhas airport that had been criticized in the past for being too short. The TAM Airlines jet slammed into a gas station and a building owned by the airline, said Jose Leonardi Mota, a spokesman with airport authority Infraero.

TV footage showed flames and clouds of black smoke billowing into the air after the crash.

"I was told that the temperature inside the plane was 1,000 degrees (Celsius), so the chances of there being any survivors are practically nil," Sao Paulo State Gov. Jose Serra told reporters at the airport. That temperature in Celsius is equivalent to about 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit.

TAM Airlines initially said there were 176 people on board the Airbus 320, then later lowered the total to 175 — 169 passengers and six crew members.

Vans used by Sao Paulo's morgue sped away from the site hours after the crash and a doctor helping rescue workers told CBN radio that efforts were being made to identify 30 bodies.

"I can verify 30 burned bodies and I know that there are burned bodies in another location," Dr. Douglas Ferraz said in the interview.

As many as 12 people on the ground were injured and taken to hospitals, Serra said.

TAM worker Elias Rodrigues Jesus, walking near the site just as the crash happened, told The Associated Press that the jet exploded in between the gas station and a warehouse owned by TAM.

"All of a sudden I heard a loud explosion, and the ground beneath my feet shook," said Jesus, who added that he saw one charred body. "I looked up and I saw a huge ball of fire, and then I smelled the stench of kerosene and sulfur."

TAM Linhas Aereas flight 3054 was en route to Sao Paulo from the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre when the crash occurred upon landing, TAM said in a statement.

Distraught relatives of passengers crowded TAM's check-in counters in Porto Alegre, complaining hours after the crash that the airline had not released a passenger list, Globo TV reported.

Critics have said for years that such an accident was possible at the airport because its runway is too short for large planes landing in rainy weather.

A federal court in February briefly banned takeoffs and landings of large jets because of safety concerns at the airport, which handles huge volumes of flights for the massive domestic Brazilian air travel market.

But an appeals court overruled the ban, saying it was too harsh because it would have severe economic ramifications and that there were not enough safety concerns to prevent the planes from landing and taking off at the airport.

Tuesday's crash came 10 months after Brazil's deadliest crash, a September collision between a Gol Aerolinhas Inteligentes SA Boeing 737 and an executive jet over the Amazon rainforest.

All 154 people on the Gol jet died. The executive jet landed safely.

The crash highlighted Brazil's increasing aviation woes, as a surge in travelers overwhelms underfunded air traffic control systems. A Brazilian judge indicted four flight controllers and the smaller jet's two U.S. pilots on the equivalent of manslaughter charges, but the defendants point to other problems — from holes in radar coverage to the inability of some Brazilian controllers to clearly speak English, the language of international aviation.

Controllers — concerned about being made scapegoats — have engaged in strikes and work slowdowns to raise safety concerns, causing or exacerbating lengthy delays and cancelations.

Angry travelers have stormed airline check-in counters and runways in Brazil, and fistfights have broken out in waiting areas.