ISTANBUL: Turkey’s authorities said at least three people were killed and another 179 injured after a plane skidded off the runway at Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul on Wednesday, crashing into a field and shattering into pieces.
Passengers were seen climbing through cracks in the plane, which had 183 passengers and crew members on board, on their own will. Others were rescued from emergency departments.
Severe damage to the plane was shown by television footage, with the fuselage appearing to be broken into three.
The plane, belonging to low-cost Pegasus airline, arrived from the city of Izmir, reported local private television channel. It was described as a “rough landing” by Turkey’s transport ministry.
Governor Ali Yerlikaya of Istanbul said the plane landed in bad weather, failed to “hold onto the runway” and skidded 50 to 60 meters before crashing from a height of some 30 meters into a ditch.
“We are deeply saddened… (But) we are very happy that we escaped a greater accident,” he said, adding that the plane could have exploded into flames.
The private television channel also confirmed that, after skidding, the plane caught fire, but said it was extinguished. It also said that the wounded included the plane pilots, who were in a critical condition.
It recorded what appeared to be a transcript of pilot-to-air traffic control communications in which the pilots were informed that previous flights had recorded heavy tail winds.
The aircraft is a Boeing 737, and was 11 years old, according to the flight-tracking website Flightradar24. Pegasus is a low cost, private carrier based in Istanbul. The routes primarily direct to Turkey but also to other European, Middle East and Central Asian destinations.
After the accident which occurred about 6.30pm local time (1530 GMT) the airport was shut down.
Video from various media sources showed the plane’s wreckage in a field near the end of the runway. It shows heavy rain and strong winds, with smoke coming from one of the engines as passengers climb onto the plane’s wings to get away from the fuselage.