A passenger has died after a Boeing 737 skidded for 200ft off a runway in Istanbul tonight, breaking into three pieces and bursting into flames.
Those on board had to evacuate through cracks in the burning plane after it plunged around 130ft off the end of the runway and into a field, leaving 157 injured.
Earlier the Governor of Istanbul Ali Yerlikaya said that most of the casualties were ‘doing well, aside from one or two people.’ NTV television reported that the plane’s two pilots had been in a serious condition.
The low-cost Pegasus Airlines plane was arriving at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport from the western Turkish city of Izmir when it made its landing despite high tail winds.
Staggering photographs have revealed the mangled seats and fractured fuselage of the wrecked plane in a field adjacent to the runway after it slipped off the wet tarmac. Passengers clambered out of the jet and onto the wings as dozens of firefighters rushed to douse the smoking airliner.
Governor Yerlikaya initially said at least 52 people were hurt in the accident and had been hospitalised, but that figure has now risen to 157 injured – around 90 percent of all those on board. His office said the plane was carrying 177 people, including six crew members.
‘The plane could not hold on the runway due to poor weather conditions and skidded for around 50-60 metres (160-200ft),’ Yerlikaya told reporters at the airport, adding that emergency teams were trying to rescue the last wounded passenger.
The plane split into three pieces after what Yerlikaya said was a drop of around 30 to 40 metres (100-130ft) at the end of the wet runway.
The airport was shut down after the crash landing and flights were being diverted to Istanbul’s main airport.
‘According to the information we have, there was a rough landing. The accident occurred after (the plane) could not decelerate and rammed into a field from the end of the runway,’ state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mehmet Cahit Turan as saying.
NTV reported that the plane had attempted to land in heavy tail-winds despite the previous two flights holding off due to the turbulence.
The accident comes a month after a Pegasus plane with 164 people on board skidded off the runway in Istanbul at the same airport. There were no deaths or injuries in that incident on January 7.