Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Canadian investigators say chutes didn't deploy

AFP , TORONTO

The successful evacuation of passengers on the Air France flight which crash-landed in Toronto last Tuesday was even more miraculous given that only four of the eight emergency exits opened -- and the slide-like emergency chutes deployed at only two of them.

Real Levasseur, the lead investigator for the Canadian transportation safety agency, said on Saturday that because fire had broken out, just four of eight emergency exits were opened to evacuate the plane.

Out of the four, he said, only two had functioning chutes upon which the passengers could slide down to the ground. Passengers were forced to leap 2m to the ground, resulting in a number of slight injuries.

Even so, the entire evacuation of 309 passengers and crew took only two minutes, with no loss of life.

Air France Flight A358 landed last Tuesday at Pearon International Airport in a violent lightning storm and ended up 200m from the runway in a wooded gully, all 297 passengers and 12 crew members surviving the near disaster, at least two with broken backs.

The plane was traveling at almost 150kph when it shot past the end of the runway into a ravine, according to Levasseur.

Investigators want to know why the chutes "did not work as advertised," whether it was due to a malfunction or they were damaged in the crash, in order to recommend a fix, Levasseur said.

The investigation team was expected to wrap up their inspection of the crash site late on Saturday or yesterday and the wreck may be moved from the ravine within a week to allow the airport to reopen the runway, he said.

Meanwhile, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Ontario Superior Court accusing Air France, Toronto airport authorities and the control tower of negligence in the crash, Radio Canada said Saturday.

The suit, seeking C$75 million dollars (US$62 million), was filed on Friday by a Toronto woman on behalf of the jet's 297 passengers.

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