The survival of all 103 people aboard an Aeroméxico plane that crashed and burned during a blustery storm has been described as a miracle – but a safety expert cited factors beyond divine intervention.
The Embraer 190 jetliner was en route from the state of Durango to Mexico City when it went down at takeoff and crashed into a field near the runway.
Officials said 49 people were hospitalized. Among them was a group from the Chicago area, including a priest, according to NBC News.
The pilot, Capt. Carlos Meyran, suffered the most serious injury and required surgery. Some survivors had bad burns, a local health official said.
“I feel blessed and grateful to God,” said Jackeline Flores, who escaped with her daughter as the jet quickly filled with smoke and flames.
David Gleave, a UK.-based crash investigator and air safety consultant, cited the relatively low speed of the impact, as well as decades of improvements in aircraft design for the lack of fatalities.
“It’s not a miracle,” he told NBC News. “This is [an] accident that should be survivable. We’ve worked long and the industry to ensure that an event like this is something that people can walk away from. The safety of passengers is no accident.”
He added: “The grassy area you see around an airport is not just wasteland, it is deliberately kept free of obstacles such as ditches or power lines. It is designed to allow a landing that people can walk away from.”
All modern aircraft also are certified to be evacuated within 90 seconds.
The expert said investigators will likely focus on the strong winds, heavy rain and large hail that swept the area around the time of the accident.
“The E190 flight deck is very modern and has all the bells and whistles that will shout at the pilots if there’s a mechanical problem or they make a mistake configuring the plane for take-off,” he said.
“Thunderstorms are harder to cope with, especially if there is low cloud cover. If the wind changes suddenly just as the pilots reach V1 [take-off speed] then it can catch them out.
“Or it could be that hailstones caused the engines to ingest a huge amount of water,” he added.
Both of the plane’s engines were knocked off and it plowed through the ground before coming to rest about 328 yards from the runway, Durango Gov. José Rosas Aispuro told reporters.
Airline chief Andres Conesa said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash, but praised the swift reaction of the crew and passengers in helping everyone flee from the burning wreckage.
He said the passengers included 88 adults, nine children and two babies.
Dorelia Rivera, of Elmwood Park, Illinois, was with a group of passengers who suffered burns and broken bones.
“We took off — it was pouring rain — honestly I thought, ‘Why in the world are we even taking off?’” she told NBC Chicago from a hospital.
“Within a couple minutes the plane just started shaking. We heard a loud noise behind us—and the next thing we knew it was starting to smoke and fire.”
She said she grabbed her daughter’s hand and the medications the girl depends on to stay alive.
“Somebody literally pushed her back so they could get through,” Rivera added.
Chicago resident Alberto Herrero told NBC’s “Today” that he escaped from the rear emergency exit and helped others climb out as the plane filled with black smoke.
“As we were taking off … we ended hitting a hailstorm that caused a lot of turbulence. As we were starting our ascent … it just brought us back down,” he said. “I have felt turbulence before but this time it was different.”
He added: “It’s kind of a miracle we all made it. It’s just a blessing we can tell the story.”
With Post wires
Published at Wed, 01 Aug 2018 16:02:28 +0000