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Madrid crash survivor says plane lacked power

Image: Beatriz Reyes Ojeda
Beatriz Reyes Ojeda, one of the survivors of the Aug. 20 crash exits a press conference at the Infanta Sofia hospital near Madrid.Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman who walked away from last week's devastating plane crash with barely a scratch said Tuesday the aircraft lacked power during takeoff, corroborating other survivor accounts of what went wrong in the disaster that killed 154 people.

"I guess I did realize that when the plane was going to take off, perhaps it was not going so fast," Beatriz Reyes Ojeda, 41, told a jam-packed news conference shortly after being released from the hospital.

She is one of only 18 survivors of Wednesday's crash in Madrid and the only one to emerge without any serious injury. She had a gash in her right leg. The first survivor to leave the hospital was 6-year-old Roberto Alvarez Carretero who had injuries to his head, face and arms. He was released Monday. His 16-year-old sister, Maria, died.

During takeoff, Reyes Ojeda said, the plane's right wing dipped abruptly. "And I said to myself, something is going on here."

"I grabbed the seat. I noticed a bump. My stomach was rising and falling and then I don't remember anything else," she said.

Reyes Ojeda has been widely praised for pulling several children out of the flaming wreckage, although it is not known if they are among three youngsters who survived the crash.

"There were children who had seats on top of them. What I did was pull them out and set them aside so they were not trapped," she said. "I know a lot is being made of this, but I think any human being, at any time when people ask for help, will give it."

Reyes Ojeda is a native of the Canary Islands, the destination of the Spanair MD-82 involved in Spain's worst air disaster in 25 years.

She was lively and smiling for much of the news conference, but her voice broke and she held back tears as she spoke of how she is alive while so many other people from the islands died. About half of the 172 people on the plane lived in the islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa.

"It is a contradictory feeling because I know that bodies are arriving back there and I will arrive intact," she said.

Her account of the plane's takeoff is similar to that of other survivors.

One of them, Ligia Palomino Riveros, a 42-year-old Colombian-born Spaniard, told The Associated Press over the weekend that the plane moved very slowly on the runway, struggled to get airborne and started "wobbling" as it veered to the right and crashed to the ground.

The newspaper El Pais reported Tuesday that the only crew member to survive, flight attendant Antonia Martinez, has told crash investigators, "I noticed that the plane did not have power when it started to rise."

The cause of the crash remains under investigation and the probe is expected to last months.