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One American Among 113 Dead in Air France Concorde CrashAired July 25, 2000 - 4:02 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to bring you the very latest on the major news today from France -- one American among the 113 people killed in today's crash of an Air France Concorde jetliner. It was Flight 4590.
The supersonic jet crashed just north of Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport right after takeoff. CNN has obtained this dramatic photograph of the aircraft going down in what witnesses describe as a ball of fire.
CNN's Jim Bittermann is at the crash scene in Gonesse, France and joins with us a live report.
Jim, what's the latest?
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, I think that photograph that you have shown pretty much indicates and confirms what we were hearing from witnesses here at scene, and that is basically that the plane was on fire shortly after takeoff -- or maybe on takeoff -- from Charles de Gaulle, and that obviously was a contributing factor to the crash.
The eyewitnesses told us that the back left side of the aircraft was on fire, and that, in fact, the plane turned to the left and may have turned upside down before it hit the ground at an intersection about 3 1/2 miles from the end of the runway. So it would have been very few seconds after takeoff that the crash actually occurred. Firemen have been on the scene here for several hours now pouring water and foam onto the fire which continues to burn from the crash. It's just a matter of smoldering now.
But, in fact, there still is smoke in the air. And we can see through the smoke a number of safety cones, orange safety cones, the kind of thing you see on the street that have been set out in places where we believe that they have located bodies of the passengers who were involved in the crash. There have been helicopters in the air photographing the scene a number of times. Crash investigators are on the scene.
They have set up lights here. It has now gone dark. And they have set up lights and, I imagine, will be continuing to work throughout the night -- Lou.
WATERS: And Jim, the Air France announcement that the fleet will be grounded, do we know if it's temporary or how long it may last?
BITTERMANN: We have no idea about that. I think they are going to want to give all of these planes a thorough inspection. The other thing is, it will be determined a bit I suppose by how quickly they can find the black box. It should be a fairly easy job to find the black box, because the crash is concentrated in one area of about 100 meters, 100 yards in diameter. And so, they shouldn't have any trouble searching for the two orange containers that are called the black box that contain both the technical information and voice information from the flight, in the last seconds of the flight.
And that will probably give them a pretty good idea right away of what the conditions were just as the plane was taking off, and maybe give them some sort of idea what kind of problems they maybe should look for on other Concordes. But I think that, given the age of the Concorde fleet, this is something they will want to know about right away before they authorize putting these planes back into the air again.
WATERS: All right.
CNN's Jim Bittermann, keeping watch in Gonesse, France, scene of this horrible crash.
The flight out of Paris was the first leg of what was to be a luxurious trip. The tourists were scheduled to board a ship -- this ship -- the MS Deutschland, which bills itself as a grand, floating hotel full of 1920s charm. They were to go on a 15-day cruise across the Caribbean, then to the Panama Canal and on to Ecuador.
More developments as they happen.
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