WORLD / Asia-Pacific
Black boxes found in Thai plane crash
Updated: 2007-09-17 11:43
Authorities on Monday found the two flight data recorders from a plane that crashed in stormy weather on the resort island of Phuket, killing 90 people, including 54 foreign tourists.
But authorities said it was too early to say what caused Sunday's crash. Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen said the black boxes would be sent to the United States for analysis.
"Hopefully, we will learn in a few weeks the cause of accident," he said.
At least four Americans were among the dead and one survived the crash, according to a US Embassy spokesman in Bangkok who spoke on condition of anonymity citing protocol.
An Israel Embassy official who spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason said there were 10 Israelis on the passenger list. Two were injured, the official said.
Passengers from France, Sweden, Iran and Australia also were killed, as were the plane's Indonesian pilot and Thai co-pilot, according to the airline's list of dead passengers, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Kajit Habnanonda, president of Orient-Thai Airlines, which owns budget One-Two-Go Airlines, said wind shear -- the rapid change in wind speed which can impact takeoffs and landings -- was a possible cause of the accident.
The One-Two-Go Airlines flight was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew members from the capital Bangkok to Phuket when the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 skidded off the runway in driving wind and rain. It then ran through a low retaining wall and split in two.
Survivors described their escape amid chaos, smoke and fire.
"As soon as we hit, everything went dark and everything fell," said Mildred Furlong, 23, a waitress from British Columbia, Canada. The plane started filling with smoke and fires broke out, she said. A passenger in front of her caught fire, while one in the back kicked out a plane window.
"We are deeply sorry about all the losses that have happened," said Dalad Tantiprasongchai, a business development manager with Orient-Thai Airlines. "We are doing our best to investigate and are working help the remaining survivors and families and relatives to get through this as quickly as they can."
Parts of the twisted plane lay smoking at the side of the runway, while officials wearing masks carried bodies wrapped in white sheets to an airport storage building.
Survivors said the plane landed hard and was out of control.
"Our plane was landing, you can tell it was in trouble, because it kind of landed then came up again the second time," said John Gerard O'Donnell of Ireland, speaking from his hospital bed.
"I came out on the wing of the plane ... the exit door, it was kind of crushed and I had to squeeze through. And saw my friend, he was outside. He just got out before me. And next thing, it really caught fire, then I just got badly burned, my face, my legs, my arms," he said.
Parinwit Chusaeng, who was slightly burned, said some passengers were engulfed in flames.
"I stepped over them on the way out of the plane," Parinwit told The Nation TV channel. "I was afraid that the airplane was going to explode, so I ran away."
Piyanooch Ananpakdee, a coordinator at Bangkok Phuket Hospital, said some survivors told her that passengers stepped on each other as they fled the smoke-filled plane.
She said there were five people in critical condition at her hospital, including a British woman with burns over 60 percent of her body and another person with broken ribs. Many of the injured also had broken legs and similar injuries from jumping from the aircraft, she said.
Dr. Charnsilp Wacharajira said some of the victims were killed by traumatic injuries to the head, not burns from the fire, indicating they died from the impact of the crash.
Many of the passengers had been planning to vacation at Phuket, a popular beach resort that was among the areas hit hardest by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 8,000 people on the island.
The accident was likely to raise new questions about the safety of budget airlines in Southeast Asia, which have experienced rapid growth in recent years and often scramble to find qualified pilots. None of Thailand's budget airlines had previously suffered a major accident, but there have been several deadly crashes in Indonesia.
Many budget airlines use older planes that have been leased or purchased after years of use by other airlines. According to Thai and US aviation registration data, the plane that crashed in Phuket was manufactured and put into use in 1983, and began flying in Thailand in March this year.
One-Two-Go Airlines began operations in December 2003 and is the domestic subsidiary of Orient-Thai Airlines, a regional charter carrier based in Thailand.