Martinique relatives arrive in Venezuela to help identify plane crash victims
Scores of victims' relatives arrived in Venezuela from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, hoping to identify the remains of 160 people killed in a plane crash.
Nearly 100 relatives and politicians from Martinique stepped off a Boeing 737 before dawn in an empty airport in the western city of Maracaibo. Some wept, while others appeared emotionless as they awaited answers on how the crash occurred.
"That night, my sister called me from the airport to tell me when she would take off. I still don't manage to understand she will never call again," said Rose-Marie Pelican, 51, whose sister Marie-Annick Taupin was killed along with her 18-year-old daughter Elodie Maquiava.
"When you travel, you put your life in other people's hands, and you know nothing of these people," said Pelican. She described how her sister had survived cancer and lamented that now "someone else stole back her life."
"They have to find the culprits," she said angrily.
The safety record of West Caribbean Airways is being scrutinized after the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 crashed early Tuesday while bringing passengers home to Martinique after a weeklong holiday in Panama.
All the bodies from Tuesday's crash have been recovered, and about 10 have been identified, French Minister of Overseas Departments Francois Baroin said in an interview on France-Inter radio.
"It is a test for Martinique and a great hurt for all of the families," Baroin said outside a morgue in Maracaibo. He said the families want to know "the truth of the matter," and that the small Colombian airline could face accusations in civil or criminal court.
Colombia's government has grounded the small Colombian airline while its civil air authority reviews inspections that the carrier had been required to perform.
Many victims were torn apart by the impact of the crash, and workers collected remains in bags from the tree-dotted pasture where the plane went down. Forensic specialists were using DNA samples to help identify remains, and said the process could take several days at least, the AP reported.
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