Durango: An Aeromexico flight crashed on takeoff during a heavy hail storm in northern Mexico, engulfing the plane in flames and injuring 97 people, officials said on Tuesday. The Embraer 190 aircraft, which was operating between Durango and Mexico City and crashed around 3:00 pm local time (20:00 GMT), was carrying “88 adults, nine minors, two infants, two pilots and two flight attendants,” the airline’s Director-General Andres Conesa said. “It is confirmed that there have been no deaths from the flight #AM2431 accident,” tweeted Jose Rosas, the Governor of Durango state where the crash occurred.
The accident did cause two series injuries: a pilot had to undergo a spinal operation, and a young girl suffered burns on 25 per cent of her body, the governor said. A total of 97 people were admitted for treatment following the crash, most of them for “very light” injuries, according to Durango civil defence spokesman Alejandro Cardoza. Cardoza said the plane was caught in a heavy hailstorm and the pilots tried to make an emergency landing, after which the fire broke out.
Conesa thanked the crew “for their professionalism” and said that the aircraft “was perfectly maintained,” but did not provide details on the circumstances of the accident. Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer announced the dispatch of a team to investigate the crash. Dozens of lightly injured passengers were seen leaving the plane, which was engulfed in gray smoke in a field. “We were on the runway when the visibility grew worse,” 47-year-old Jacqueline Flores, who was travelling with her 16-year-old daughter, said.
“When we were already aloft, up high, it felt like the plane was going to level out, but just then is when it plunged to the ground. “I think we fell back on the runway because it was a hard surface, then we skidded on the ground until it stopped,” added the Durango native, a housewife who was on a journey back to Colombia where she lives.
With the plane on the ground amid some bushes and brush, Flores said luggage began sliding down the aisle and she started to smell smoke.
“I undid my seatbelt and saw flames, and realised we had to jump.
“There was a hole right next to us and the plane had broken up, I told my girl ‘We have to jump over here’ and we jumped,” she added. According to Rosas, the passengers helped each other quickly evacuate the aircraft through the openings in the cabin caused by the accident.
The mid-sized jet was almost full, with 103 people including two infants and four crew members on board, when it crashed at about 4 pm local time (2100 GMT), authorities said. Passenger Jackeline Flores told reporters the plane crashed shortly after taking off in heavy rain.
She and her daughter escaped from a hole in the fuselage as the aircraft filled up with smoke and flames, she said.
“A little girl who left the plane was crying because her legs were burned,” said Flores, who said she was Mexican but lived in Bogota, Colombia. Flores said her passport and documents burned in the fire.
“I feel blessed and grateful to God,” she said. TV images showed the severely damaged body of the plane after it came to rest in scrubland and a column of smoke rose into the sky. The plane had barely taken off when it felt like it was hit by a strong air current, another passenger told network Televisa. — Agencies