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Passengers who walked away from the fiery Aeroméxico crash are thankful to be alive but a safety expert on Wednesday said it was “no accident” that everyone aboard the jet survived.
The aircraft attempted to take off in heavy rain during a storm Tuesday afternoon in Durango, Mexico, but crashed into grass near the runway and skidded to a stop before catching fire.
None of the 103 people on board — 99 passengers, two pilots and two flight attendants — was killed.
Authorities said 49 people were hospitalized. Among them was a group from the Chicago area, including a priest.
The plane’s pilot, Capt. Carlos Meyran, suffered the most serious injury: a lesion that required surgery. Some survivors had burns on a quarter of their bodies, according to a local health official.
“I feel blessed and grateful to God,” said Jackeline Flores, who escaped with her daughter as the Embraer E190 quickly filled with smoke and flames.
Aeroméxico Flight 2431 was bound for Mexico City when the plane was rocked by a gust of wind that caused it to plunge suddenly, said the governor of Durango, José Rosas Aispuro.
Both of its engines were knocked off and it plowed through scrubland before coming to a halt 328 yards from the runway, he told reporters.
David Gleave, a U.K.-based crash investigator and air safety consultant, said the absence of fatalities reflected the relatively low speed of the impact, as well as decades of work in improving aircraft design.
“It’s not a miracle,” he said. “This is a design-based accident that should be survivable. We’ve worked long and hard in the industry to ensure that an event like this is something that people can walk away from, that the seats don’t slide forward on impact, that limbs are protected. The safety of passengers is no accident.”
He added: “The grassy area you see around an airport is not just wasteland, it is deliberately kept free of obstacles such as ditches or power lines. It is designed to allow a landing that people can walk away from.”
All modern planes are certified to be evacuated within 90 seconds.
Gleave said investigators would probably focus on the strong winds, heavy rain and marble-sized hail that lashed the area around the time of the crash.
“The E190 flight deck is very modern and has all the bells and whistles that will shout at the pilots if there’s a mechanical problem or they make a mistake configuring the plane for takeoff,” he said.