It was a terrifying experience but a lucky escape for passengers on board Aeroméxico flight 2431 yesterday when it crashed shortly after taking off from the Guadalupe Victoria Airport in Durango.
There were no fatalities among the 99 passengers and four crew on board the plane, which was bound for Mexico City, but officials said 85 people were injured and today 21 people remain hospitalized including the pilot and a two-year-old girl. Durango Governor José Rosas Aispuro said they are in a serious but stable condition.
Yaquelín Flores, a Mexican national who lives in Colombia and was traveling with her daughter, told reporters yesterday that it had been raining heavily prior to takeoff.
“The plane accelerated to take off and it got off the ground but we went into a very strong storm and it fell. Then we hit [the ground and] the plane slid forward. I remembered the protocol of putting my chest over my knees and my daughter did as well,” she said.
Flores said fire broke out immediately after the plane came to a stop. She turned around and saw a hole in the fuselage near one of the wings.
“We undid our seatbelts and I told my daughter that we had to go out there and we jumped. There were children leaving the plane and crying . . . We managed to get out through the hole but there were flames. I was afraid of being burned but we jumped without thinking or taking anything with us,” she said.
“I feel blessed and grateful to God.”
Another passenger who was traveling in first class said after the plane hit the ground it slid for a long distance before coming to a halt.
He said that he and other passengers in first class were able to leave the aircraft quickly but others took longer, adding that three or four minutes after the plane hit the ground it began to “explode.”
Another woman on board assured reporters that the plane had taken off and was briefly airborne before crashing.
“Yes, we took off but there was a lot of rain,” she said, adding that she believed the pilot had tried to slow down the plane after it made impact with the ground.
Inside the cabin, she said, “it was chaos because people were in shock and didn’t know what to do.” Luggage was strewn across the aisle, making it even more difficult to exit as the cabin was engulfed in flames and filled with smoke.
Ramin Parsa told the BBC that “shortly after the plane took off, I knew something was wrong.”
He said the plane hit the ground and “started bouncing, shaking and sliding” before hitting trees and coming to a stop in a ditch.
“All the lights went off and then there was smoke inside the cabin, people were panicking and screaming,” Parsa said, adding it was “a miracle of God we survived.”
Rómulo Campuzano, a National Action Party (PAN) politician, said he had been “very lucky because I was able to get out by the main door” using a torn-off door as a ramp to safety.
“I walked away from the plane, turning around to see if the other passengers were getting out, too. It started raining very hard and I think that helped put out the flames,” he said.
Some other passengers claimed the plane had been hit by lightning.
Once outside the aircraft, passengers walked to the perimeter of the airport to seek medical assistance and local media reported that wire cutters were used to cut a mesh fence to allow them to get out.
Flores said paramedics took about 20 minutes to arrive and explained that she lost all her personal belongings including her passport in the crash.