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Breaking News

Concorde Crash Kills at Least 113

Aired July 25, 2000 - 3:45 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lou Waters here at CNN Center where we continue to closely follow developments in the crash of an Air France Concorde jetliner at 10:44 Eastern time, 4:44 Paris time today, upon takeoff from Charles De Gaulle Airport. On board, 100 passengers, nine crew: all dead; four on the ground dead.

The Air France and British Concorde fleets have been grounded. The latest developments now from our Paris bureau chief, Peter Humi, who's been closely watching developments from Paris -- Peter.

PETER HUMI, PARIS BUREAU CHIEF: Lou, well, night is beginning to fall here in Paris and just a few miles of the north of where I'm speaking to you, at the crash site near Charles De Gaulle Airport, rescue services are still sifting through the debris which was still, up to just a short while ago, still smoking.

The Concorde took off just moment -- crashed -- I beg your pardon -- crashed just moments after it took off from Charles De Gaulle Airport and slammed into a hotel very close by to the airport itself. Eyewitnesses reported seeing flames coming out of the one of the engine; certainly trails of smoke, others said flames.

I believe we're looking at a photograph that does seem to indicate fairly clearly that there were flames shooting out from the rear of the airplane.

Eyewitnesses went on to say that the plane seemed to take a little bank over to the left and slam down onto the hotel. All of the passengers on board, most of them at least, believed to be of German nationality, were on their way to New York. Air France, like British Airways, the other international airline that has Concordes, both airlines charter out these planes and this was one such flight.

It was not a regular, scheduled, commercial flight. It was a charter flight taking the mainly Germany holiday makers to New York, where they were due to get onto a cruise line spend two weeks sailing down to the Americas.

Both prime minister Lionel Jospin and the minister of transport, of course, were on the site very early. It was Lionel Jospin who broke the news, in fact, that there were believed to be one, possibly two, survivors inside the hotel on which the Concorde crashed. No other survivors, of course. In the meanwhile, Air France and British Airways have grounded their fleet of Concordes for some time to come. Partly as -- obviously -- as part of the investigation. The maintenance logs and the records of the planes will be carefully checked.

The Concorde that crashed today, according to an Air France official, had been checked. It had an overhaul, complete overhaul, engines included, just ten months ago, in September of 1999.

British Airways earlier this week had reported that one of its Concordes had been grounded because it had cracks on its surface. Air France also said that some of its planes did also have cracks on their surfaces, but not on this particular Concorde. So, obviously, awaiting the results of what is likely to be a very lengthy investigation indeed -- Lou.

WATERS: Peter Humi keeping watch in Paris. The Concorde was to have arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York, as Peter mentioned, about an hour and a half ago. Air France USA responded to the crash and -- in New York, just moments ago, and Frank Buckley is there -- Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Christopher Korenke, who is the vice president and general manager of Air France here in North America, first began his brief remarks by offering condolences and sympathies to the families and relatives of the victims. He also suggested that the airline was fully committed to keeping open a line of communication with those families.

Now, they are not expecting very many of those relatives or loved ones to be here at JFK, as most of the people who were aboard this plane were in fact tourists who were bound for a cruise ship, the MS Deutschland, which is moored here in Manhattan. That ship's scheduled to leave for Ecuador on Thursday.

Mr. Korenke did, however, at this briefing, confirm many of the details of the flight that was scheduled to arrive here at JFK, including the fact that one person on board the plane was an American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER KORENKE, AIR FRANCE NORTH AMERICA: Today, an Air France Concorde, chartered by a German cruise company, Peter Deilmann, took off from Charles de Gaulle Airport to JFK at 4:44 p.m. and crashed just after takeoff.

There were 100 passengers and nine crew members on board, and at the present time we have only been able to confirm one American on board, who was a retired Air France employee in Germany.

The BEI, which is the Bureau (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which is the equivalent of the American NTSB, together with the DGAC, which is the French FAA, are in charge of the investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Mr. Korenke also told us that Air France took delivery of this plane on June 17th, 1979, that the plane went into service October 23rd in 1980. This plane has been involved in 3,978 landings, over 11,989 flying hours.

We also learned that the rest of Air France's Concorde fleet -- that is five additional planes -- has been grounded for now.

Frank Buckley, CNN, reporting live from New York.

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