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Concorde Crash: Thrust Reverser Malfunction may be Smoking Gun; Luxury Cruise to Set Sail

Aired July 26, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The hour's top story is what may prove to be a smoking gun in the crash of that Air France Concorde outside Paris. It is engine number two, the one that flamed out just before the charter jet went down is the same engine that underwent unscheduled repairs just before takeoff.

Airline officials say the thrust reverser was malfunctioning, and though regulations would have allowed the flight to go on, the pilot insisted it be fixed.

The jet's flight data and cockpit voice recorders are being analyzed, and at a news conference moments ago, France's minister of transportation spoke to that part of the inquiry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEAN-CLAUDE GAYSSOT, TRANSPORTATION MINISTER (through translator): The investigation was diligent. We are talking about the judicial investigation, which will be in effect to find the causes of the accident, to procure as well as three judges have been nominated to be responsible for this investigation, which in itself is complex.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Forensic experts are still in the process of recovering and identifying the remains of the 113 victims.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The South America-bound cruise ship, the passengers aboard the fatal Concorde jet were flying to meet, still is due to set sail tomorrow afternoon from New York. And through a combination of bad scheduling and good fortune, some of the members of that tour group that chartered the doomed jet will be on the ship.

CNN's Bill Delaney joins us now. He has that part of the story -- Bill.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Lou.

A real sense of loss here among the 400 passengers of the M.S. Deutscheland behind me, all of them Germans, all of them very aware of the 99 Germans who were to join them on this ship, who died in the crash of the Concorde. This luxurious, five-star ship still scheduled to leave here, Pier 88 in New York, tomorrow, for its two-week trip, a trip of a lifetime down the coast of the United States, stopping at the Kennedy Space Center, then into the Caribbean, then through the Panama Canal, and then on to the western coast of South America to Ecuador, where the trip is scheduled to end.

In a ship that is often compared to the Queen Elizabeth and even to the Titanic for its sumptuous quarters. Bookings on this ship, the most deluxe cabins can cost $16,000.

But, Lou, no sense of celebration here. There is a real sense of loss among the passengers we spoke to. Some 33 of the passengers only avoided taking the Concorde because it was overbooked, and they were put on another flight.

Now, we also spoke to a couple of passengers who for one reason or another just decided to take an earlier commercial flight rather than the Concorde.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTINA ELLINGER: We decided very shortly to take the normal plane, instead of Concorde. And I was crying yesterday in the evening a little bit because, if we had taken the Concorde too, my husband, my daughter and me, we would have died too. So we are all a little bit sad.

SYLVIA STOLZE-WERNER: We do appreciate our life more now. And we don't mind that it is raining because when we would be dead we wouldn't see the rain even. So we don't complain so much anymore now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DELANEY: One poignant note, Lou, that woman, the first woman we heard mentioned her 11-year-old daughter. She told us that 11-year- old was looking forward to playing with some of the children she had been told would be joining them from the Concorde. Children killed in the crash of that airplane -- Lou.

WATERS: Bill, do we know yet if those folks who took the earlier flight have any very close relationships with those who died aboard the fatal Concorde.

DELANEY: No. Air France last night said they could not determine that. There didn't seem to be any close relations. We spoke to a number of passengers this morning, and that did not come up. All of them, in fact, said, as far as they knew, everyone on the ship, all 400, were planning to continue with their journey, not return to Europe -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Bill Delaney in New York today.

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