Crash pilot reported engine trouble: British woman among three dead as KLM aircraft comes down soon after take-off from Amsterdam

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The Independent Online
THREE PEOPLE died and 13 were seriously injured yesterday when an aircraft carrying 21 passengers, mostly British, from Amsterdam to Cardiff crash-landed at Schiphol airport shortly after take-off.

The Foreign Office confirmed last night that a British woman was among the dead, as was the captain of the Saab 340 twin-engined turboprop of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The 33-seat Swedish-built aircraft had a crew of three.

A KLM spokesman said last night that Captain Gerrit Lievaart, 38, reported engine trouble 15 minutes after taking off at 2.20pm and turned back towards Schiphol.

The aircraft was a few metres above runway six on its return when it tilted to starboard and the wing hit the ground. It crashed in a field. Unconfirmed reports spoke of an explosion in the starboard engine.

One survivor, Marijke de Spa, 36, told Dutch television there was no panic as the aircraft turned back. 'Everything seemed normal, but as we came down the plane veered to the right and dropped like a brick,' she said.

Last night investigators were picking through the wreckage after recovering the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. Saab is sending an investigation team from Stockholm.

Rescue services had trouble reaching the crash site, which was surrounded by farmland. A farmer who transported the injured to ambulances on his tractor described the scene as chaotic. A rescue worker said three people walked out of the plane with only minor injuries; others had to be removed.

Fourteen injured people were still in hospital last night. The British consulate-general in Amsterdam said three Britons had been admitted to the Slotervaart hospital, outside the city. A man in his 20s was being operated on for a broken leg while two other men, one in his 20s and one in his 50s, suffered minor fractures. Their injuries were described as serious but not life-threatening.

A British couple were taken to Leiden University Hospital, 12 miles from Schiphol. John Cook, 69, from Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan, had dislocated his shoulder and broken an ankle. His wife, Valerie, 64, was being kept in hospital for observation. The retired headteachers had been on a two-week Easter trip to see their new-born granddaughter.

The Saab 340 is used for KLM 'Cityhopper' services. More than 200 of the aircraft had been delivered within about 18 months of it first becoming available in 1989, and many more are on order.

A Schiphol airport spokesman could not explain why the landing went wrong. He said there had been communication between the pilot and air traffic control but he did not have details.

Cardiff airport's medical officer was called to give sedation to some of the waiting relatives. Nine were flown from Cardiff to Schiphol last night.

Graham Greaves, Cardiff airport director, said that the Dutch airline had operated a 'first-rate' service from Cardiff for about 16 years. KLM flies to Cardiff from Amsterdam three times a day.

The Netherlands' worst air disaster was on 4 October 1992, when 47 people died after an El Al Boeing 747 cargo jet crashed into two tower blocks in an Amsterdam suburb.

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