Nine killed as airliner crashes in the Netherlands
125 survive harrowing dive; Jet breaks apart in muddy field
HAARLEMMERLIEDE, Netherlands - A Turkish Airlines jetliner plummeted out of the mist and plowed into a muddy field yesterday near Amsterdam's main airport, killing nine of the 134 people on board.
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," Sumer said on Turkish NTV "We could not understand what was happening. Some passengers screamed in panic, but it happened so fast."
Another survivor, Jihad Alariachi, said there was no warning from the cockpit to brace for landing before the ground loomed up through the mist and drizzle.
"We braked really hard, but that's normal in a landing," Alariachi said. "And then the nose went up. And then we bounced . . . with the nose aloft."
More than 50 people were injured, about half of them seriously.
The dead included the airliner's two pilots. Authorities said the toll could have been far higher if the plane had not gone down in mud, which diminished 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. Authorities would not say whether the plane sent out a distress call before the crash.
"The fact that the plane landed on a soft surface and that there was no fire helped keep the number of fatalities low," Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said, adding that it was a miracle there were not more casualties.
The head of the Dutch Safety Authority, Pieter van Vollenhoven, said the plane appeared to have lost speed before crashing. Witnesses said it dropped from about 300 feet.
"You see that because of a lack of speed it literally fell out of the sky," van Vollenhoven told NOS radio after visiting the crash site.
Four Boeing employees traveling on business were aboard the plane, according to Jim Proulx, a spokesman for the company. All four are based in the Seattle area, he said, but he would not provide further details, saying their families had not yet been notified.
Van Vollenhoven said Boeing was sending a team to provide technical assistance to Dutch safety officials as they investigate. The plane's flight data recorders were recovered and were to be analyzed by experts.
Experts say crashes involving modern airliners are more survivable due to engineering advances that have resulted in strengthened structures and fire retardant technologies used for cabin seats and furnishings, as well as better emergency training of cockpit and cabin crews.
The most dramatic example of passenger survival was the Hudson River landing last month of a US Airways Airbus A320 that lost engine power when it struck a flock of birds. All 155 passengers and crew lived despite the watery landing.