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Breaking News

French Officials Begin Investigation of Concorde Crash

Aired July 25, 2000 - 4:46 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: Hello. I'm Lou Waters at CNN Center, where we continue watching developments in the crash of the Air France Concorde jetliner outside Charles de Gaulle Airport. Early this morning -- it was 10:44 Eastern Time, 4:44 Paris time.

Night has fallen now behind Jim Bittermann, who is at the crash scene. He's been there all day. He continues to watch developments from there.

And what we're seeing is Jim on the phone, but he's listening to me. We're seeing Jim.

What's the latest?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, as you can see here in the background a number of fire vehicles and emergency vehicles are here. This intersection here that you can see -- it's an intersection of about five streets, five small country roads, two-lane roads, and the crash itself is over to the left.

We just had a passage overhead. You may have heard an aircraft. We're right directly on the landing and takeoff path of Charles de Gaulle Airport. The planes pass right overhead. And this plane was straight off the runway when it came down.

At this hour, there are klieg lights set up at the crash scene. The crash scene itself is a burned-out area of approximately of 100 yards of diameter. And on the -- in the crash scene, you see very little that's recognizable, just bits and pieces of twisted and burned metal. You also see the burned-out shell of what was a hotel restaurant that took a direct hit from the plane as it went down -- Lou.

WATERS: Will the work there continue through the night then, Jim?

BITTERMANN: Yes, indeed. I think crash investigators are planning to stay here throughout the night, although my guess is that in fact their most efficient work will be tomorrow morning when they get some daylight. One of the things that they're looking for, of course, are the bodies. And one of the things we saw earlier, while there still was daylight here, was that they have set out these kinds of traffic cones, these orange traffic cones that you see on the street in various locations around the burned-out area. And our assumption is that those traffic cones mark the position of bodies that have already been found.

WATERS: Are you getting a rather consistent picture being painted by eyewitnesses you're hearing from as to what happened?

BITTERMANN: We hear from everybody the same sort of story, that there were flames coming from the Concorde, the back left side of the Concorde, as it was taking off, all indicating that an engine was on fire as the plane was taking off. We don't have any conformation of that from the crash investigators, and they'll be able to actually say what happened.

But everybody is consistent -- has consistently said -- and I think you have your photograph that shows that indeed the back left side of the aircraft was on fire as it was taking off.

The whole thing must have taken just a few seconds, because, in fact, we're just about 3 1/2 miles from the end of the runway here at Charles de Gaulle, and you can see this crash site from the control tower, and you can see the control tower of Le Bourget, which is about 1 mile in the other direction that way.

WATERS: Although the Concorde may be routine for folks who live near Charles de Gaulle it certainly is a passenger plane like no other, and I imagine there will be several photographic eyewitnesses to this business today as -- as this whole investigation develops.

BITTERMANN: That's correct, and I think you've got the photograph that we've already scene. There may be more photographs forthcoming and maybe some video. It is -- it is a spectacular site when a Concorde takes off. It's also quite a noisy sight. And in fact, people may have taken pictures, taken video as the plane took off.

WATERS: All right, Jim Bittermann, who is our man at the scene in Gonesse, France. That's about 3 miles from the end of the runway at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where the plane took off this evening and crashed just a short while later.

I'm Lou Waters at CNN Center. More news when it happens.

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