286 survive plane crash

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TWO HUNDRED and eighty six people, including at least two Britons, survived the crash of a Dutch Martinair DC-10 at Faro airport in southern Portugal yesterday morning, writes Christian Wolmar.

Last night, airport officials said 54 people had died and all passengers had been accounted for. The 27 most badly injured had been taken to Lisbon for treatment. Most of the 340 passengers were Dutch, flying to the Algarve for a Christmas holiday.

Among the survivors were John Watts, 52, and his wife Sheila, who live on the Algarve. They had been to Amsterdam for a weekend's Christmas shopping and were lucky to survive because they were sitting at the rear of the aircraft, where most of the casualties from the crash and the ensuing fire occurred.

Mr Watts's mother, Mrs Phyllis Watts, of Shurdington, near Cheltenham, said she first heard of her son's being in the crash when he rang to say he was unhurt. 'My husband and I had no idea that John and Sheila were on the trip. The first we knew about it was when John rang from Portugal to tell us about the crash and to assure us they were both all right.' Mr Watts was not injured and his wife was 'just shaken up', although she was having X-rays of her injuries.

Mr Watts described the crash to his mother. She said he told her: 'There was a terrific storm raging there and the plane was going around for the second time to try to land when it must have nose-dived.'

Crosswinds blamed, page 8

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