Christmas Day plane crash in Myanmar kills 2, but 70 survive

Christmas Day crash landing amid heavy fog in Myanmar kills two, but 70 make it out alive

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 2:58am


Survivors of a crash landing in Myanmar on Christmas Day recounted fleeing the burning plane as smoke filled the cabin after the airliner came down in a field short of the runway.

There was no warning from the pilots or cabin crew that anything was wrong as the Fokker 100 jet descended in thick fog towards Heho airport in eastern Shan state, passengers who were on board said yesterday.

"When I looked out, I saw all of a sudden there was no runway. Then there was an impact," said David Antoni, 27, from Germany.

"It came to a stop and within two minutes, we all just got on our knees because there was a lot of smoke coming through the airplane ... This was a very scary moment," he said while recovering at a nearby hotel.

"Some people jumped through the fire [to get] out because they couldn't go through the front due to too much smoke," he said. "This is a once-in-a-million chance, I guess, to crash land. Lucky to survive."

Anna Bartsch, 31, an Australian who had planned to visit nearby Inle Lake and its vineyards with her partner for Christmas, described the landing as "like a rough roller coaster".

"It got very hot and we knew to get out of the plane very quickly. We knew that the back was burning," she said in Yangon after returning on a special flight organised by Air Bagan.

"It turns out that the wings had come off, but we didn't know that yet ... I was thinking the fuel would explode there at any minute. So that was the scary part of the thing," added Bartsch, who escaped without serious injury.

Seventy of the 71 people on board miraculously survived the accident, while one Myanmese tour guide on board was killed along with a motorcyclist on the ground. Air Bagan described the incident as an "emergency landing" and officials said it was too soon to pinpoint the cause.

Duong Bich Hanh, 38, a Vietnamese who was also on board the plane with her family, said: "We were informed that the plane would be landing soon ... Then [there were] a few huge bumps … I woke up, grabbed my son [and] rushed out of the airplane. We got out and on the way, we looked back to see the airplane on fire.

The incident has raised fresh questions about the safety standards of Myanmar's fast-growing but stretched aviation industry as foreign visitors flock to the country as it emerges from decades of junta rule.

But Hanh said she was not put off returning to the country.

"Plane crashes happen anywhere. It's not just Myanmar that has crashes. We hope to come back some time," she said.