AMSTERDAM (AP) - A Turkish Airlines plane with 135 people aboard slammed into amuddy field while attempting to land at Amsterdam's main airportWednesday. Nine people were killed and more than 50 were injured,many in serious condition, officials said.
The Boeing 737-800 fractured into three pieces on impact. Thefuselage split in two, close to the cockpit, and the tail broke
off. One engine lay almost intact near the wreck in the muddyfield and the other was some 200 yards (meters) from the plane andheavily damaged, an Associated Press photographer at the scenesaid.
Flight TK1951 left Istanbul's Ataturk Airport at 8:22 a.m. (0622GMT, 0122 EST) bound for Amsterdam, then crashed at 1031 a.m. (0931GMT, 0431 EST) next to a runway at Schiphol Airport.
Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said it was "amiracle" there were not more casualties.
"The fact that the plane landed on a soft surface and that therewas no fire helped keep the number of fatalities low," he said.
Survivor Huseyin Sumer told Turkish NTV television he crawled tosafety out of a crack in the fuselage.
"We were about to land, we could not understand what washappening, some passengers screamed in panic but it happened sofast," Sumer said. He said the crash was over in five to 10seconds.
The fact that the plane landed in a muddy, plowed field may havecontributed to making the accident less deadly by absorbing much ofthe force of the hard impact, experts said. It may also have helpedavert a fire resulting from ruptured fuel tanks and lines on theunderside of the fuselage, which appeared to have suffered veryheavy impact damage.
Hours after the crash, emergency crews still swarmed around theplane's cockpit.
At first, the airline said everyone survived. But at a newsconference later, Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer,reported the fatalities.
"At this moment there are nine victims to mourn and more than 50injured," he said. At least 25 of the injured were in seriouscondition and crew members were among those hurt.
He said there was no immediate word on the cause of thecrash.
Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency said pilots HasanTahsin, Olcay Ozgur and Murat Sezer were not injured. The agencyquoted Turkish civil aviation officials but did not identify themby name.
The Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands, Selahattin Alpar,told Anatolia there were 72 Turks and 32 Dutch people on board.There was no information on the nationality of otherpassengers.
Candan Karlitekin, the head of the airline's board of directors,told reporters that visibility was good at the time of landing.
"Visibility was clear and around 5,000 yards (4,500 meters).Some 550 yards (500 meters) before landing; the plane landed on afield instead of the runway," he said.
"We have checked the plane's documents and there is no problemconcerning maintenance," he added.
Turkish Airlines chief Temel Kotil said the captain, Tahsin, wasvery experienced and a former air force pilot. Turkish officialssaid the plane was built in 2002 and last underwent thoroughmaintenance on Dec. 22.
Gideon Evers, spokesman of the International Federation ofAirline Pilots Associations, said the cause of the crash remainedunclear. There was no indication that the crash had anything to dowith fuel levels, Evers said, adding that regulations require allcommercial flights to carry ample reserves.
"Certainly it appears to be an unusual circumstance, but asalways the sensible course of action is to wait for the results ofthe investigation," he said.
According to mandatory limits, a passenger airliner must carrysufficient fuel to get to its destination, remain in holdingpatterns for 45 minutes, possibly divert to an alternate airport,hold for another 45 minutes, and then carry out a normalapproach.
The initial impact with the ground appeared to have sheared offthe hot engines, which could have ignited leaking fuel, and theloose soil would have absorbed it - further decreasing the risk offire.
The Dutch government pledged a swift investigation.
"Our thoughts go out to the people who were in the plane and ofcourse also to those who are now waiting in uncertainty to hearabout the fate of their loved ones," a government statementsaid.
Wim Kok, a spokesman for the Dutch Anti-Terror Coordinator'soffice, said terrorism did not appear to be a factor.
"There are no indications whatsoever (of a terror attack)," Koksaid.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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