February 26, 2009 in Nation/World

Scores walk away from plane crash in Amsterdam

Toby Sterling Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Rescue workers assess the wreckage of a Turkish Airlines jetliner near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

HAARLEMMERLIEDE, Netherlands – A Turkish Airlines jetliner plummeted out of the mist and plowed into a muddy field Wednesday near Amsterdam’s main airport, but nearly everyone on board – 125 people – survived. The nine dead included both pilots.

The Boeing 737-800 was en route from Istanbul to Amsterdam carrying 134 people when it suddenly lost speed and fell out of the sky about two miles short of the runway at Schiphol Airport, investigators said.

The jetliner broke into three pieces upon impact: the fuselage tore in two near the cockpit and the tail was ripped off. Despite the catastrophic impact, the wreckage did not burn and scores of people walked away.

Survivor Huseyin Sumer said he crawled to safety out of a crack in the fuselage.

“We were about to land, we could not understand what was happening, some passengers screamed in panic, but it happened so fast,” Sumer said on Turkish NTV, adding that the crash was over in 5 to 10 seconds.

More than 50 people were injured, about half of them seriously.

Authorities said the toll could have been far higher if the plane had not gone down in mud, which lessened the impact and helped avert a fire from breaking out in the ruptured fuel tanks and lines on the underside of the fuselage.

In addition, having reached its destination, the plane would have used up most of its fuel, lessening the chances of a fuel-driven fire.

Investigators will explore a wide range of possible causes, including weather-related factors, insufficient fuel, navigational errors, pilot fatigue or bird strikes. Experts say initial results could be made public soon because of the sophistication of the Boeing 737-800s black box, although the full report will likely not be ready before the end of the year.

Weather at the airport at the time of the crash was cloudy with a slight drizzle.

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