An Aeromexico airliner taking off in a blustery storm smashed down into a nearby field, but skidded to a stop virtually intact, and all 103 people on board 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 in the northwestern city of Durango.
“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 [matter] of seconds,” he told reporters, snapping his fingers for emphasis.
Survivors said the Embraer 190 plane burst into flames right after it hit the ground.
“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.
Durango state Governor Jose Aispuro said a gust of wind hit flight AM2431, heading from Durango to Mexico City, just as it was lifting off the tarmac, forcing the pilot to abort takeoff.
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 favorable. Strong wind and heavy rain with marble-sized hail lashed Durango, 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. That’s what is most encouraging for us,” Aispuro told media.
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 day tracking down survivors to ensure 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.
Aispuro said all were expected to live.
The passengers included 88 adults, nine children and two babies, plus a crew of two flight attendants and two pilots.