Tuesday, June 30, 2009



June 30, 2009

French safety inspectors had discovered faults two years ago on the Yemenia airliner that crashed Tuesday near Comoros, and the airline had been under strict surveillance by the French authorities since, France’s transport minister said.

Relatives and friends of passengers arriving at a crisis center set up at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, where the flight had originated.
The plane was carrying 142 passengers and 11 crew on a flight from the Yemeni capital of Sana to Moroni, on the main island of Grand Comore in the Indian Ocean. The flight originated in Paris and stopped in Marseille before continuing to Yemen, where the passengers and crew changed planes.

The Associated Press reported that a child was rescued from the crash site and that three bodies had been recovered.

The Airbus A310-300 crashed into the Indian Ocean early Tuesday as it approached an airport on the island nation of Comoros in heavy winds, the Yemeni authorities said.

The French transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, told French television that the “A310 in question was inspected in 2007 by the DGAC and they noticed a certain number of faults.” He was referring to the French civil aviation authority. The plane had not returned to France since that inspection, Mr. Bussereau said, adding that the airline was to be interviewed “shortly” by a European Union committee which has the power to ban airlines from European skies in the case of serious safety violations. The E.U. is due to publish its latest quarterly list of airlines banned from the region this week. Officials of the French air safety regulator and the E.U. Transport Commission in Brussels were not immediately available for comment.

The majority of the passengers on the doomed jet were from Comoros, returning home from Paris , the deputy chief of Yemen’s civil aviation authority, Mohammed Abdul Qader, told journalists in Sana.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that 66 of the passengers were French. Hadji Mohamed Ali, the director of the airport at Moroni, told French radio that the plane lost radio contact with air traffic controllers five minutes before the crash.

President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his “deep emotion” about the accident and said France was sending military equipment and personnel from the French islands of Mayotte and Réunion to assist in the search operation. The Yemeni authorities said the bodies of at least three victims had been recovered, along with debris.

On June 1, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed in the Atlantic, killing all 228 people aboard.