Fuel Situation Being Scrutinized in ATR 72 Crash

 - April 16, 2007, 6:34 AM

Italian civil aviation authorities suspect fuel starvation or contamination for the crash of a Tunisian ATR 72 off the northern coast of Sicily on Saturday. The accident claimed at least 13 of the 39 occupants, three of which remain missing. Less than an hour after leaving Bari, Italy on a charter flight to Djerba, Tunisia, the pilots of the ATR 72-200, operated by Tunisair regional subsidiary Tuninter, contacted Palermo for an emergency landing after one of the airplane’s Pratt & Whitney Canada PW124 turboprops quit. Minutes later the second engine stopped, forcing the pilots to ditch the airplane into the Tyrrhenian Sea, 14 nm northeast of Palermo. Italian coast guard personnel quickly arrived at the scene and rescued 23 survivors. Officials are exploring the possibility of a broken fuel gauge or failure by the pilots to upload enough fuel at Bari. They have also ordered tests on the contents of the tanker truck that refueled the airplane, and have asked Tunisian authorities to do the same in Tunisia, where the flight originated.