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No survivors from French helicopter crash in Antarctica

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 11:41 am

SYDNEY, Oct 30, 2010 (AFP) – Australian rescuers on Saturday confirmed there were no survivors from a helicopter crash involving four Frenchmen in Antarctica.

“They have confirmed that all four on board didn’t survive the impact of the crash and the French team are currently conducting recovery operations,” an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman told AFP.

The AS350 Squirrel helicopter went missing Thursday after taking off from the French research ship Astrolabe, carrying a pilot, a mechanic and two staff from the Dumont d’Urville French Antarctic research base.

A distress beacon was activated but heavy weather hampered search efforts. An Australian air force plane eventually spotted the wreckage on Friday, with three bodies sighted among the debris.

The AMSA spokeswoman said a French helicopter touched down at the crash site, 100 kilometres from the French base, on Saturday afternoon and an onboard doctor confirmed there had been no survivors.

Australian and American officials from McMurdo Base were assisting with the recovery of the bodies and wreckage, she added. Responsibility for the matter was expected to be transferred to the French authorities by evening.

Officials had held little hope for the men, with rescuers spying three bodies strewn among a large field of debris when the wreckage was first spotted Friday. AMSA had described it as an “unsurvivable” incident.

The helicopter was last observed at an altitude of just 29 feet (10 metres), travelling at only 20 knots (37 kilometres per hour), sparking initial hopes that it had decided to land due to the extremely low visibility.

Dumont d’Urville, the main French Antarctic base, is situated on an island close to the magnetic south pole and is frequently buffeted by hurricane-strength katabatic winds, the force of which can prevent helicopters from landing.

The east Antarctic is known as the “home of the blizzard”.

The icebreaking Astrolabe carries out regular round trips between the southern Australian port of Hobart and the base from November through to March, carrying both supplies and personnel.

It is currently icebound several hundred kilometres from the Dumont d’Urville base.

A vast colony of emperor penguins live near to the base, which was the backdrop for the hugely popular 2005 movie “March of the Penguins”.

Subjects under research at the base include earth sciences, atmospheric studies and biology.

Source: SGGP

Pakistan mourns as investigators seek clues to air crash

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 3:17 am

50 dead in India train crash

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

KOLKATA, India, July 19, 2010 (AFP) – A speeding express rammed into the back of another passenger train in eastern India early Monday morning, killing more than 50 people and trapping others in the wreckage, officials said.

The express hit the other train as it stood at a station in Birbhum district, around 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kolkata, the state capital of West Bengal.

In an image grab taken from Aaj Tak television Indian bystanders and rescue officials crowd the scene of a train accident at Saithiya, some 250kms north of Kolkata on July 19, 2010. AFP

The force of the impact lifted one of the stationary train’s rear carriages off the tracks and left it lodged at an angle over a passenger bridge at the station.

Bodies and badly injured travellers were being pulled from the crumpled mass of steel by emergency services and members of a huge crowd of onlookers which had gathered around the site of the accident.

“The death toll has crossed 50. We are still struggling to pull out some bodies from the coach,” senior police officer Humayun Kabir told AFP by telephone from the scene.

There was no immediate report of what may have caused the accident.

Most of the dead were in the rear “unreserved” carriages, which are usually tightly packed.

“The people who have lost their lives were travelling in unreserved coaches. We do not have their names and any vital information about them to inform their relatives,” Sunil Banerjee, a local rail traffic manager told AFP.

“Relief trains have been rushed from Kolkata,” he said.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee and other senior officials were also on their way to the site.

The accident came less than two months after a train collision blamed on Maoist saboteurs killed nearly 150 people in West Bengal.

In that incident, a Mumbai-bound high-speed passenger express from Kolkata veered off the tracks into the path of an oncoming freight train. Police officials said a section of the track had been removed.

The state-run railway system — still the main form of long-distance travel in India despite fierce competition from new private airlines — carries 18.5 million people daily.

There are 300 accidents on the railways every year, and past crashes have left hundreds dead.

In 2002, 100 were killed and 150 hurt when a carriage plunged into a river in the northeastern state of Bihar, while in 1995 more than 300 died in a collision near Ferozabad, close to the Taj Mahal city of Agra.

The worst accident on record dates back to 1981 when a train plunged off the track into a river in eastern Bihar state, killing 800 people.

Source: SGGP

Blame-game over deadly India train crash

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 11:23 am

KOLKATA, India, July 20, 2010 (AFP) – A probe into a rail crash in eastern India that claimed more than 60 lives focused Tuesday on why a packed express train hurtled at high speed into a station where it was scheduled to halt.

The express roared into Sainthia station in West Bengal state at 90 kilometers an hour (60 miles an hour) early Monday and slammed with enormous force into the rear of a stationary train waiting to leave the platform.

An Indian man weeps as he identifies a body outside the city hospital in Suri, some 200 km north of Kolkata, on July 19, 2010, following the railway accident. AFP

More than 160 people were injured and two of them died overnight, raising the overall death toll to 63.

Speculation and looming state elections in West Bengal produced a host of theories in the immediate wake of the crash, as the potential for blame was shifted between politicians and railway officials.

Indian Railway Board Chairman Vivek Sahay suggested that human error was the most likely cause, saying the express driver had ignored a stop signal and then failed to reduce speed as he approached the station.

“Why was the train travelling so fast? The driver didn’t even touch the brakes or the emergency brakes,” Sahay told reporters.

With the express hurtling towards them, officials at Sainthia station issued frantic warnings over the public address system, telling those on the platform to run for safety.

Retired train drivers interviewed by several Indian newspapers questioned Sahay’s version of events, saying the fact that neither the driver nor his assistant attempted to apply the brakes suggested a signal failure or other technical malfunction.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee had initially raised the possibility of sabotage, a move her opponents said was aimed at deflecting criticism for a recent spate of train accidents on her watch.

Banerjee has come under pressure for neglecting her ministerial duties in order to concentrate on the May 2011 polls in her home state of West Bengal where she is aiming to end more than three decades of Marxist rule.

“Shunt Her Out” was the front page verdict of the Mail Today newspaper, while an editorial in The Hindu said Banerjee was “clearly not up to the job of ensuring safety on the tracks”.

West Bengal Civil Defence Minister Srikumar Mukherjee, an arch rival of Banerjee’s, ridiculed her hints at possible sabotage.

“The tragic accident took place because of negligence on the part of the railway administration,” Mukherjee said.

Source: SGGP

Man charged in boat crash near Statue of Liberty

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm

A New Jersey man was charged with vehicular manslaughter after a boat crash near the Statue of Liberty that killed a groom-to-be and injured two other men.

New York City police said 39-year-old Richard Aquilone of Jersey City, N.J., was out on the water Friday evening with his wife, their 2-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 2 and 3, when their 30-foot boat hit a smaller craft.

Police said Jijo Puthuvamkunnath, 30, of Bergenfield, N.J., and two friends were in the 17-foot boat anchored off Liberty Island that was struck by Aquilone.

Puthuvamkunnath was taken to Jersey City Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead of head injuries. His two friends, both also 30, were treated for minor injuries.

In this July 2, 2010 image taken from video and released by WCBS-TV in New York, rescue teams respond to a fatal boat accident near the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

No one on the larger boat was injured.

Aquilone was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter, operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs and endangering the welfare of a child.

He was arraigned on the charges Saturday. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office said Aquilone pleaded not guilty and bond was set at $50,000. She did not know the name of his attorney.

Puthuvamkunnath was due to marry his girlfriend, Sissy Chacko, on Aug. 28, said his aunt Aleyamma Varughese, who answered the phone at Puthuvamkunnath’s home Saturday.

“He was a very, very wonderful young man,” Varughese said. “He was loved by everybody.”

Source: SGGP

Poland votes for new president after crash tragedy

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

WARSAW (AFP) – Poles voted Sunday for a new head of state after the death of president Lech Kaczynski in an air disaster, but his twin trailed the ruling party candidate in an audacious bid to take his brother’s place.

Opinion polls have put Bronislaw Komorowski, 58, of the market-friendly Civic Platform ahead of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, 61, leader of the eurosceptic conservative Law and Justice party.

Conservative candidate in the presidential elections Jaroslaw Kaczynski (C) speaks during the final election rally on June 18 in Gdansk. AFP

Poland was plunged into national grief by the April 10 plane crash in western Russia which killed Lech Kaczynski and 95 other Poles, including his wife Maria, senior aides, lawmakers and military top brass.

The government jet crashed as it came in to land at Smolensk to take the delegation to a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet forces.

The snap election has political importance now though as since losing a parliamentary election in 2007, the conservatives had relied on Kaczynski’s presidential veto powers to hamper policy moves by the liberal government.

Victory for Komorowski — speaker of parliament and a close ally of Prime Minister Donald Tusk — would end a policy logjam and boost Civic Platform before parliamentary elections in late 2011.

On top of the jet tragedy, the campaign has also been overshadowed though by floods in recent weeks that killed 24 people and forced thousands from their homes.

Both candidates have appealed to the 38 million Poles for national unity.

The campaign slogan of Jaroslaw Kaczynski — usually known for his hardball style — is “The most important thing is Poland”. Komorowski is pushing for an end to infighting under the banner “Consensus is constructive”.

Voters casting their ballots in the central Mokotow district of the capital Warsaw said that despite the tragic circumstances the poll was like any other.

“I chose Bronislaw Komorowski because of his experience in parliament and because Mr. Kaczynski did not pass the test when he served as prime minister — he already had his chance,” Grazyna Rykowa, 50, told AFP.

Agnieszka Bienacka, 40, said she had also picked the liberal.

“I voted for Mr. Komorowski because his party is tolerant and democratic, completely opposite from the populism his rival supports,” she said.

Komorowski could take 41-51 percent of the vote, to Kaczynski’s 29-35 percent, surveys show. The other eight candidates lag far behind.

If no one scores over 50 percent, a run-off between the top two will be held on July 4, with Komorowski the likely victor, polls indicate.

Under the constitution, parliamentary speaker Komorowski became acting president after the crash.

Even before the crash he was preparing to fight Lech Kaczynski’s bid for a second five-year term in an autumn election, and was tipped to win.

Despite shared roots in Solidarity, the opposition movement that drove Poland’s communist regime from power peacefully in 1989, Civic Platform and Law and Justice are bitter rivals.

“They’re similar as candidates really, both of them with roots in the anti-communist opposition, but I voted for Jaroslaw Kaczynski — he’s more inclined to social welfare,” said 25-year-old Michal Luczak.

The two parties have been at odds since 2005, when Lech Kaczynski beat Tusk in a tough presidential race.

In a unique duo, Jaroslaw Kaczynski was his brother’s premier in 2006-2007, a period marked by regular clashes between the twins and fellow European Union leaders, plus bitter battles at home.

Civic Platform trounced Law and Justice in the 2007 general election.

Forced to work with Tusk, Lech Kaczynski did his best to block laws. He was wary of the government’s drive to reform welfare and privatise state firms.

Tusk, who underscores that Poland bucked the global economic slump on his watch, has mended fences in the EU, which the country joined in 2004.

Polls close at 8:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Source: SGGP

Russia confirms arrests over Polish crash fraud: reports

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2010 at 10:34 am

MOSCOW, June 8, 2010 (AFP) – Russia confirmed Tuesday at least three Russian soldiers had been detained on suspicion of using a credit card belonging to a victim of the plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski, news agencies reported.

Polish officials had on Sunday announced that members of the Russian security forces had been arrested for posthumously defrauding one of its top national heritage officials.

But Russian interior ministry officials had on Monday denied this was the case.

The ITAR-TASS news agency said that the Russian authorities had detained three conscripts who worked at the military airport in western Russia where Kaczynski’s plane crashed on April 10, killing him and 95 others.

This AFP file photo shows where Kaczynski’s plane crashed on April 10.

“Three conscripts in a unit servicing the Severny airport where the Polish plane No. 1 was due to have landed have been detained on suspicion of this crime,” an informed source in the security services told the ITAR-TASS news agency Tuesday.

“The investigation already has a number of pieces of evidence that prove their guilt.”

A total of 6,000 zlotys (1,500 euros) were withdrawn from the bank account of Andrezej Przewoznik, who headed Poland’s national war memorial committee, Polish officials have said.

He was part of the Polish delegation heading to Katyn near the western Russian city of Smolensk for a ceremony marking the 1940 massacre of thousands of Polish army officers at the orders of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Meanwhile, a senior security forces source told the RIA Novosti news agency Monday that four soldiers had been detained.

“Four defence ministry troops have been detained on suspicion of stealing money from the account of one of the members of the Polish delegation,” RIA Novosti cited the source as saying late Monday.

The scandal casts a shadow on the reconciliation seen between Russia and Poland after the crash, which saw two countries which have often been at loggerheads united in shared grief.

Source: SGGP

Investigators hunt black box from Indian jet crash

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2010 at 5:17 am

Investigators sift wreckage of Indian plane crash

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2010 at 9:22 am

MANGALORE, India, May 23, 2010 (AFP) – Investigators on Sunday face the gruelling task of sifting through the wreck of an Air India Express plane that overshot the runway and plunged into a ravine, killing at least 158 people.

The Boeing 737-800, carrying 160 passengers and six crew on a flight from Dubai, careered off the end of the “table-top” runway at Bajpe airport and plunged into a forested gorge where it was engulfed in flames.

Rescue personnel and volunteers walk over wreckage at the crash site of an Air India Boeing 737-800 aircraft which crashed upon landing in Mangalore on May 22, 2010. AFP photo

Survivors of India’s worst aviation disaster in 14 years described hearing a loud thud shortly after touchdown and said the main fuselage broke into two before filling with fire and thick smoke.

The probe into the crash, just outside the port city of Mangalore on India’s west coast, was called off in darkness on Saturday night.

Investigating teams were expected to resume combing the wreckage during daylight on Sunday, with efforts focusing on finding the “black box” cockpit data recorder that they hope could shed light on the cause of the disaster.

Officials described the landing conditions as fair with good visibility and said there had been no distress call from the cockpit.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who flew to the crash site, said eight passengers had survived.

Overnight Air India released the names of seven survivors.

It was the country’s deadliest crash since 1996 when two passenger planes collided in mid-air near New Delhi with the loss of all 349 on board both flights.

One survivor, Umer Farooq, told the NDTV news channel from his hospital bed that he had heard a bang as the plane touched down.

“The plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke. I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out,” said Farooq, who suffered burns to his arms, legs and face.

Television images from the immediate aftermath of the crash showed smoke billowing from the fuselage, as emergency crews, who struggled down steep, wooded slopes to reach the aircraft, sought to douse the fire with foam.

Hours later, rescue workers were still pulling blackened bodies — some of them strapped upright into their seats — from the remains of the burned-out fuselage.

“The preliminary observation is that the aircraft touched down and did not contain itself within the runway space,” Patel told reporters.

He described the chief pilot, a Serbian national, as a “very experienced” flier who had logged 10,000 hours of flying time.

Stressing that it was “too early” to determine the precise cause of the crash, Patel noted that the sanded safety area surrounding the runway in the event of an overshoot was shorter than at some airports.

“It does not have much of a spillover area (and) in this case apparently it had not been able to stop the plane,” he said.

Air India Express is budget airline operated as a subsidiary by the state-run carrier.

In a statement, US-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was sending a team of investigators to India to help in the inquiry.

The last major plane crash in India was in 2000, when 61 people were killed after a passenger jet plunged into a residential area near the eastern city of Patna.

Saturday’s disaster came as Air India is struggling to turn around its finances after posting a net loss of more than one billion dollars last year.

Source: SGGP

Plane crash in India, most of 166 aboard killed

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2010 at 9:12 am

An Air India Express passenger plane crashed in flames after overshooting the runway in the southern city of Mangalore on Saturday, killing most of the 166 people on board.

Rescue personnel are seen among the smouldering wreckage of an Air India Boeing 737-800 aircraft which crashed upon landing in Mangalore on May 22, 2010. (AFP Photo).

The state-run carrier said at least eight people had been rescued from the burning wreckage of the Boeing 737-800 which was carrying 160 passengers and six crew on a flight from Dubai.

Eyewitnesses said the aircraft had touched down before careering off the end of the runway into a shallow gorge and bursting into flames at around 6:30 am (0100 GMT).

“As far as the information available with us is concerned, eight persons were rescued and shifted to local hospitals in Mangalore for treatment,” Anup Shrivasta, Air India personnel director, told a news briefing in Mumbai.

Television footage showed at least three survivors being stretchered into a nearby hospital.

One survivor, Umer Farooq, told the NDTV news channel from his hospital bed that he had heard a loud thud as the plane touched down.

“Then the plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke. I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out,” said Farooq who had burns to his arms, legs, and face.

It was the first major plane crash in India since 2000, when 61 people were killed after a passenger plane crashed into a residential area near the eastern city of Patna.

Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya called for local people’s cooperation in what he called “this hour of crisis” and urged them to stay away from the crash site.

“It is feared that most of the people have died,” Acharya told reporters.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

V.P. Agrawal, chairman of the Airport Authority of India told reporters in New Delhi that there had been no distress call to suggest a technical fault.

“The visibility was six kilometres (four miles) when the aircraft approached the runway which was more than sufficient,” Agrawal said.

Air India Express is a subsidiary budget airline operated by the state-run carrier.

Television images showed the plane had partially broken up, with smoke billowing from the main fuselage, as rescue workers sought to douse the fire with foam.

Rescue teams had to struggle down steep, wooded slopes to reach the plane, and were shown carrying body parts away from the site.

The airport is located some 20 kilometres outside the coastal city of Mangalore, which is around 320 kilometres west of the Karnataka state capital, Bangalore.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was due to fly to the site from New Delhi later Saturday.

Many Indians from Karnataka and other southern states work in Gulf cities such as Dubai as construction workers, domestic staff and in other low-paid jobs.

They send much of their earnings back to India as remittances, and return to India for their annual leave.

In a statement, US-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing said it was sending a team of investigators to India to help in the crash inquiry.

“Boeing wishes to express its profound condolences to the friends and family of those lost… as well as its wish for the recovery of those injured,” it said on its website.

India’s worst aviation accident occurred in 1996 when two passenger planes collided in mid-air near New Delhi with the loss of all 349 on board both flights.

The crash was blamed on a Kazakhstan Airlines plane descending below its assigned altitude, putting it in the path of a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane that had taken off minutes earlier from the Indian capital’s airport.


Source: SGGP