Plane skids off runway in Honduras killing five
Fri 30 May 2008, 20:53 GMT
By Gustavo Palencia


TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A Salvadoran passenger plane skidded off a rain-soaked runway on landing at Tegucigalpa airport in Honduras on Friday, killing five people and injuring 38 as it veered onto a road and smashed into cars and a building.

The TACA airlines Airbus A320, which was on a flight from San Salvador with 135 passengers and crew, lay broken in three parts and was spewing fuel after the accident, which happened in heavy rain and fog.

[Linked Image] Two people were still trapped in cars underneath the wreckage five hours later, an aviation official said.

The plane had circled the airport several times before attempting to land in heavy fog, survivor Mario Castillo told Honduran television.

It zig-zagged off the runway, which was sodden with rain from a tropical storm, and smacked into some cars.

"Suddenly we felt a big noise and we were all trying desperately to get out," Castillo said. "The worst injured were the people in business class."

Local emergency services chief Carlos Cordero said five people were killed, including the pilot, passengers and people driving cars hit by the aircraft. Around 38 were injured, he told Reuters.

Some 20,000 gallons (80,000 litres) of fuel had leaked out of the wreckage, posing a serious fire hazard, Cordero said.

Authorities closed the airport and transferred commercial flights to a military airport.

The authorities did not say what caused the accident, but Boris Ferrera, an official with Honduras' civil aviation authority, said there was plenty of room for the plane to land.

TREACHEROUS RUNWAY

Tegucigalpa is nestled in hills and its airport's short runway and difficult approach makes it one of the most treacherous for landing in Latin America.

One of the dead was Harry Brautigam, a Nicaraguan who headed the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said.

Friday's weather was affected by Tropical Storm Alma, which was drenching Honduras and Nicaragua with rain as it broke up over the mountains of Central America.

"The plane landed on the runway and braked and braked but it seems that the rain and the wet made it slip off," said an airport security official who witnessed the accident.

TACA said in a statement the plane was carrying 124 passengers and 11 crew. A local TACA manager earlier said there were 142 people on board.

"I am thanking God I am alive -- there are other passengers who are in a very bad way," survivor Roberto Sosa told Honduran radio.

The last time El Salvador's TACA was involved in an accident was in 1993 when a Boeing 767 airliner overran the runway as it was landing in Guatemala City and crashed into some houses. Nobody was killed.

(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Cyntia Barrera in Mexico City and Alberto Barrera in El Salvador; writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

http://africa.reuters.com/world/news/usnN30297148.html


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