Madrid Crash Update

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Voice and data recorders have been retrieved (but the data recorder has suffered damage) from the Spanair MD 82 that crashed last week following an aborted takeoff. The crash has so far resulted in the death of 154 people, with all eighteen others injured, some critically. Early reports state rescuers believe that as the aircraft broke apart some survivors were thrown from the wreckage, landing in a nearby stream where they were protected from the huge post-crash fire and later found. Early witness reports that one of the airliner's two engines was on fire during the takeoff have been countered by video showing no sign of engine fire, with fire erupting only after the crash. Prior to the flight, a heating system intake valve malfunction had led the pilot to return the aircraft to the gate prior to its fatal departure run. Maintenance work associated with that problem has all but been ruled out as a contributing factor to the crash, according to authorities. The flight of 172 people was departing Madrid's Barajas airport bound for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. The accident may be the worst Spanish air tragedy in 25 years.