Sao Paulo: Rescuers pulled scores of bodies from the charred wreckage of a jetliner on 18 July 2007, as authorities ordered a probe of the Sao Paulo airport where more than 200 people are feared dead in Brazil’s deadliest air disaster.
All 186 passengers and crew aboard TAM’s Flight 3054 were believed to have died in the fiery crash that also killed at least 16 people on the ground.
“There is no sign of survivors,” TAM President Marco Antonio Bologna said at a news conference.
The Airbus 320 on 17 July careened off the slick and notoriously short runway upon landing at Sao Paulo’s Cagonhas airport in driving rain, skidded across a crowded avenue and slammed into a warehouse where it burst into flames.
By early afternoon on 18 July, rescuers had retrieved 162 bodies, and another three people died after being taken to a hospital. At least 16 of the confirmed fatalities had been on the ground at the time of the crash.
The crash revived controversy over the safety of the airport, located just a few kilometers from the centre of Brazil’s financial capital.
“The runway was as slippery as soap,” an unnamed pilot told the O Globo daily, adding the plane should not have been cleared to land at Cagonhas airport in those conditions.
The Justice Ministry said it ordered an investigation to establish whether the runway met technical and legal security standards.
Brazil’s airport administrator Infraero said that some resurfacing work had been done on the main runway, which was closed from 14 May to 29 June, and that more construction aimed at improving water drainoff was scheduled in September.
There have been a number of incidents of planes skidding off the tarmac at the airport, the latest just one day before the 18 July crash.
In February, a local judge banned the use of the airport by Fokker 100, Boeing 737-800 and Boeing 737/700 jetliners, but the ruling was overturned by an appeals court.
The International Air Transport Association called for “an open, vigorous and thorough investigation,” and offered to help in probing the crash.
France’s Bureau of Investigation and Analysis (BEA) said it was sending two of its investigators and that its German counterpart, the BFU, was sending another two. Five Airbus experts also were on their way.
Rescue workers recovered one of the plane’s black boxes, but it was not immediately clear if its condition would permit retrieval of the recorded data, local media reported.
The previous worst accident in Brazil’s aviation history occurred last September, when a Brazilian Boeing 737 flying from Manaos to Brasilia crashed into the Amazon jungle killing all 154 people on board after it was clipped in mid-air by a small private jet. The occupants of the smaller jet were unhurt.