Experts hail Amsterdam crash 'miracle'

27th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Nine died in the crash that happened Wednesday morning but officials say the casualty rate could have been much greater.

Amsterdam -- Safety experts on Thursday hailed the "miracle" that limited the death toll from the crash of a Turkish Airlines jet at the Amsterdam airport, as dozens of investigators pored over the wreckage.

"It is a real wreck," Fred Sanders, a spokesman for the Dutch Safety Board told AFP. "That so many people were able to walk out was truly remarkable. Some have called it a miracle."

Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim has also described the death toll as a "miracle."

The Boeing 737-800 jet, carrying 127 passengers and seven crew, crashed into a muddy field short of the runway at Schiphol Airport Wednesday morning, in what survivors and witnesses likened to a brick falling from the sky.

Witnesses described seeing the tail of the jet hit the edge of a busy road in light fog and drag along the ground before the plane broke in three on impact.

The engines were found some 100 metres from the rest of the wreckage.

Of the nine dead, three were crew members of Turkish nationality, officials said. The other six, as well as four of the six critically injured, had yet to be identified.

Haarlemmermeer mayor Theo Weterings told journalists that 63 people remained in hospital Thursday.

He also announced that those on board the plane included 53 Dutch and 51 Turkish citizens, a German, seven Americans, three Britons, one Bulgarian, a Finnish citizen, an Italian and a Taiwanese. The nationalities of fifteen had yet to be determined.

"The identities of the deceased will only be released once the next-of-kin have been informed," Weterings said.

Sanders said that casualties had been reduced by the fact that the plane did not catch fire when it crashed.

"It may have something to do with the fact that it came down in a muddy field rather than on a concrete road or on a landing strip where sparks would have increased the chances of a fire." The way the plane fell may indicate that it "had lost its forward momentum, that there was no motor function," he added.

Initial investigations at the crash scene will take a few days, then the wreckage will be moved away. An interim report on the causes of the crash could be released in weeks.

Accident investigators worked all night at the crash site looking for clues, Rob Stenacker, a spokesman for the Schiphol police told AFP.

About 40 investigators were taking part in the probe led by the Dutch Safety Board. They are supported by police teams and experts from around the country.

A large white tent had been erected near the crash site Thursday, with investigators in white suits and face masks swarming in and out of the wreck.

The two black boxes, meanwhile, have been sent for analysis in France by investigators from that country's transport ministry. It is commonplace after a fatal air disaster for such work to be tasked to a third country.

Sixty-seven relatives of those on the ill-fated flight TK 1951 arrived at Schiphol on a special flight from Istanbul on Wednesday night.

Turkish newspapers criticised Turkish Airlines (THY) and the Turkish government for their handling of the aftermath, accusing them of creating a separate "crisis."

While Dutch investigators were still combing the wreckage Wednesday afternoon, the airline and Turkish transport ministry announced that all on board had survived the accident.

The popular Vatan newspaper called the announcement a "scandal," while Aksam said the crash aftermath "turned from celebration to torture" for relatives.

Turkish Airlines' last deadly accident was in 2003 when a domestic flight to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir crashed on landing, claiming 74 lives.

A Schiphol spokeswoman said the Polderbaan landing strip, near the wreckage, was still closed Thursday but air traffic was back to normal.

The last accident at Schiphol happened in 2006, when a Boeing 737 of Dutch carrier KLM veered off the runway in heavy rain. There were no deaths.

Martine Pauwels/AFP/Expatica

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