Mexico plane hit sudden, violent storm before crash

2018-08-02 09:33

It began with a strong burst of wind and pounding hail that pummelled the Aeromexico jetliner minutes after takeoff in northern Mexico then sent it smashing belly-down onto a field near the runway.

Frightened passengers scrambled to flee as flames and blinding black smoke erupted around them. Miraculously, all 103 on board survived the crash on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, passengers described the terrifying sequence of events.

"It's not every day you kind of fall from the sky and live to tell about it," said Alberto Herrera, a 35-year-old webpage engineer from Chicago.

Jose Luis Corral, a 52-year-old business owner from Portland, Oregon, agreed.

"It's a good thing we're all alive," said Corral, who still wore a neck brace from injuries he suffered in the crash.

"It's so fast, terrifying to see all the people screaming," added Corral, who was one of four people who helped the plane's badly injured pilot escape the blaze. The pilot suffered a serious neck injury and remains hospitalised. Forty-eight others were also injured, and 22 remained hospitalised on Wednesday.

Herrera said the skies were sunny as passengers boarded the flight from Durango to Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon and the violent storm seemed to come from nowhere.

"When we were sitting on the plane there was a little drizzle, but nothing to worry about. It was just a little light rain, super light, like barely hitting the windows," Herrera said.

But another passenger Ramin Parsa, 32, of Los Angeles, said the weather was ominous even before takeoff.

"The airplane actually was shaking before we even moved so I knew it was dangerous weather," he said. "I thought that we were going to have a delay until the weather clears up, but the pilot began to move so I thought that he knows what he is doing."

"I think it was a mistake by the pilot. He should not have taken off," Parsa said.

Durango state Gov. Jose 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 wasn't favourable.

Brace for impact

Herrera said the takeoff went bad, seemingly in an instant.

"You start gaining speed and as soon as you start taking off all of the sudden the plane starts struggling and it's getting hit with hail. The higher up we went into the storm, the heavier the hail got and more wind got to us," Herrera said.

"Then all of a sudden the plane starts rocking and it starts seriously, seriously moving around and then hitting the ground," he said. "We skidded and hit a second time and you saw the flames. ...You're like 'This might be bad.'"

Herrera braced for impact and yelled for others to do the same. The woman seated next to him was able to hold onto her toddler, though the little girl suffered some scratches and may have hit her head on a seat.

Officials said the impact ripped both engines off the Embraer 190 jetliner, and fire immediately broke out in the wings.

"My window turned red because of the flames," Parsa said. He said he tried to kick out a window but couldn't. He searched for an exit and at first couldn't find one because of all the smoke. Then suddenly he felt fresh air on his face. He was in front of the exit.

Thankful to be alive

"Imagine you put 100 people in a room, in a dark room, pitch dark, filled with smoke and there's a small door, everybody's trying to find it. That's what the situation was," Parsa said.

At the back exit, Herrera said the emergency slide had deployed but the fuselage was at an odd angle, so it was unusable and people had to jump to the ground.

The passengers walked back across the muddy field to the end of runway and waited there for emergency vehicles.

Herrera said he was thankful to be alive.

"Me, I just came out of it with scratches. Other people are seriously injured," he said.

He credits both the pilot and the fact that the plane had not gained much altitude when the storm broke out for the good outcome.

"The pilot had to execute a manoeuvre correctly and then we hit the storm at its peak while we were going up, and not while we were up in the air," he said.

An Illinois priest was on the plane. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago said the Rev. Esequiel Sanchez suffered some injuries but was alert and resting.

Mexico's Transport Department said the US National Transportation Safety Board was sending two investigators to assist in the investigation, and the plane's manufacturer will also participate.

The department did not immediately answer questions about whether the airport was equipped with a Low Level Wind Shear Alert System that can detect weather conditions like severe down drafts or microbursts.

Read more on:    mexico

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.