BARAJAS AIR DISASTER

Spanair crash victims’ families hope Strasbourg will take up judicial fight

Relatives call High Court decision "a great institutional failure"

People in the gardens at Barajas Airport last year, remembering the victims of the 2008 crash
People in the gardens at Barajas Airport last year, remembering the victims of the 2008 crashCristobal Manuel / EL PAÍS

Five years after a Spanair flight crashed shortly after takeoff in Madrid, killing 154 people and seriously injuring another 18, victims and their relatives have yet to find consolation in the courts.

The provincial High Court of Madrid blamed Spain's worst aviation accident in 25 years on the pilots, who also died in the crash, and closed the criminal investigation.

Victims are calling the decision "a great institutional failure," which does not serve to prevent the mistakes that led to the Barajas crash on August 20, 2008. According to the president of the victims' association, Pilar Vera, their hopes "are now pinned on the Strasbourg [European] Court [of Human Rights]." Last January, the association appealed to Spain's Constitutional Court as a necessary first step before turning to Strasbourg. The group considers that closing the case "violates fundamental rights," said Vera, who called the Madrid court's decision "incomprehensible."

The Madrid court acquitted the mechanics who checked the aircraft a few minutes before the tragedy and cleared it for flight despite some technical malfunctions. Flight 5022's black box revealed that the pilots had forgotten to deploy the flaps and the slats that are necessary for takeoff.

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