MEXICO CITY – An Aeromexico jetliner taking off in a blustery storm smashed down into a nearby field but skidded to a stop virtually intact, and all 103 people aboard were able to escape advancing flames before fire engulfed the aircraft.
Passengers expressed gratitude to be alive, but many were extremely shaken after the crash Tuesday afternoon.
"It was really, really ugly," said Lorenzo Nunez, a passenger from Chicago who fled the plane with his two sons and wife. "It burned in a question of seconds," he told reporters, snapping his fingers for emphasis.
The head of Mexicos civil aviation agency, Luis Gerardo Fonseca, said it could take months to know the cause of the accident. Speaking to Televisa, he said the planes voice and data recorders would be recovered once rescue efforts were completed.
"We felt the flames coming quickly … there was a lot of smoke," Jaquelin Flores told the newspaper El Sol.
Romulo Campuzano, head of a political party in Durango state who was on the plane, told Foro TV that both wings were on fire as he bolted from the aircraft.
Dozens of people were injured when a packed Aeromexico-operated Embraer jet crashed right after takeoff in Mexicos state of Durango on Tuesday, but authorities said most were not seriously hurt and there were no fatalities.
Durango state Gov. Jose Aispuro said a gust of wind hit flight AM2431 heading from the city of Durango to Mexico City just as it was lifting off the tarmac, forcing the pilot to abort takeoff.
Passengers said they heard a loud noise as the planes left wing banged to the ground, and both engines tore loose. The plane stayed upright, though, and the escape slides activated.
Aispuro said it was too soon to speculate on the cause of the crash. Mechanical failure and human error could be factors, but certainly the weather wasnt favourable. Strong wind and heavy rain with marble-sized hail lashed Durango city, even damaging hangars at the airport.
"The most important thing in the seriousness that is an accident of this nature is that there were no deaths – thats what is most encouraging for us," Aispuro said at a news conference.
After the accident, several passengers walked away from the plane before first responders arrived. Some sought medical help, while others rushed home to loved ones. Officials spent much of the afternoon tracking down survivors to ensure that everyone was accounted for.
Officials said 49 people had been hospitalized – most with minor injuries. The pilot suffered the most serious injury, a cervical lesion that required surgery. Some people had burns on a quarter of their bodies, said Durango state Health Ministry spokesman Fernando Ros.
Aeromexico Chief Executive Officer Andres Conesa described the day as "very difficult" and credited the timely reaction of crew and passengers for the lack of fatalities.
"Our heart is with those affected and their families," he said at an evening news conference.
Conesa said the passengers included 88 adults, nine children and two babies and the crew consisted of two flight attendants and two pilots.
He said the jetliner had been sent for maintenance in February and the crew was well-rested, having started their work day in Durango.
The website Planespotters.net said the Brazilian-made medium-range jet was about 10 years old and had seen service with two other airlines before joining the Aeromexico fleet.
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There have been no official figures on deaths or injuries after an Aeromexico plane crashed close to an airport in the northern state of Durango on Tuesday, July 31, 2018.
An Aeromexico jetliner crashed after taking off in the northern state of Durango on Tuesday, but the state’s governor said there were no deaths and another official said 37 people had minor injuries.
MEXICO CITY—An Aeromexico jetliner crashed while taking off during a severe storm in northern Mexico on Tuesday, smacking down in a field nearly intact then catching fire, but officials said everyone on board escaped alive.
The civil defence office of Durango state said the plane came down in a field near the airport for the state capital, also named Durango.
Israel Solano Mejia, director of the city’s civil defence agency, told Foro TV that the plane “made it off the ground, but fell nose-first” just a few hundred yards from the end of the runway.
“The nose took the hit. The most seriously injured is the pilot,” Solano Mejia said. However, he said, “the majority of passengers left (the plane) under their own power” and only 37 suffered slight injuries.
Earlier, Durango Gov. Jose Aispuro wrote in his Twitter account that “it is confirmed there were no fatalities in the accident.”
Gerardo Ruiz Eparza, head of Mexico’s Transport Department, said there were 97 passengers and four crew members aboard the Embraer 190. The plane has a capacity of 100 passengers.
Officials and witnesses differed on whether the plane either fell shortly after takeoff or ran off the runway without really gaining altitude. But they agreed the plane was trying to take off during a storm.
The state civil defence office published photos of a burning but relatively intact plane lying on its belly in a field. Ambulances lined up at the accident site to ferry the injured to local hospitals.
The federal Transport Department office said in a press statement that the airplane “suffered an accident moments after takeoff,” but gave no information on the possible cause.
Ruiz Esparza told the Milenio television news channel that “it was a big accident, the plane caught fire … there was a very strong storm at the time of takeoff.”
The website Planespotters.net said the Brazilian-made medium-range Embraer 190 was about 10 years old and had seen service with two other airlines before joining the Aeromexico fleet.