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Archive for Monday, September 17, 2007

Investigators find black box of plane that crashed in Thailand

September 17, 2007

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The wreckage of a One-Two-Go passenger plane sits on the side of the runway after it crashed while attempting to land at Phuket International Airport in southern Thailand. The plane filled with foreign tourists crashed Sunday in heavy rain on the tourist island of Phuket, leaving at least 91 people dead, officials said. See story, page 2A.

The wreckage of a One-Two-Go passenger plane sits on the side of the runway after it crashed while attempting to land at Phuket International Airport in southern Thailand. The plane filled with foreign tourists crashed Sunday in heavy rain on the tourist island of Phuket, leaving at least 91 people dead, officials said. See story, page 2A.

— 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 U.S. 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.

Officials have said weather was likely a factor. The budget 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, daughter of the Orient-Thai Airlines chairman which owns One-Two-Go, reading from a prepared statement. "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.

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.

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