This article was first published in the South China Morning Post on August 23, 1999. It has been republished online as part of Hong Kong 25 , which looks at how the city has changed since the handover, and what its future holds. By Staff Reporters A China Airlines jet crash-landed at Chek Lap Kok and overturned in flames last night, killing two passengers and injuring 211 others on board. The plane, landing during a No 8 signal hoisted for Typhoon Sam, touched down on fire after the right wing clipped the runway and was torn off. Flight CI642, from Bangkok, had 300 passengers and 15 crew on board when it came in at 6.48pm during fierce winds and heavy rain. “I saw the plane like a fireball coming down,” said Toshi Hoshino, a passenger on another flight who was changing planes at the time. “The right wing crashed into the ground and dragged on for a while before a big fireball shot up three storeys high.” Witnesses and the co-pilot said the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 was flying at a 15-degree angle and was on fire as it approached the southern runway. Officials said the approach was normal. Passenger David MacDonnell said: “About 100 metres from the runway, people at the back started clapping and I thought it was the kiss of death; it was.” More than two hours after impact there were still about 100 people on board, many strapped upside-down in their seats, as rescue crews helped by medical teams from Princess Margaret Hospital worked in driving rain to evacuate the plane. Fire Services Department Director John Tsang Kwong-yu, co-ordinating 80 emergency vehicles, said passengers were hit by a shower of luggage sent flying through the cabin. “Baggage and chairs and air-conditioning equipment fell from above when it turned over,” he said. A passenger said: “Only the emergency lights were on. We couldn’t tell where we were, which side we were facing. “The smoke was coming in and we tried to force the door open but failed.” China Airlines said 183 Hong Kong residents were on board the flight. A further 80 were Portuguese, and there were 16 mainlanders and five Taiwanese. Killed in the crash was Portuguese woman Helena Vilela, 40, and Taiwanese man Lin Keng-hui, 30. The injured, many suffering serious burns and head injuries, were taken to six hospitals which called in extra medical staff and social workers. Early this morning, six people remained critically injured and 10 were listed in serious condition, while 45 others stayed in hospital overnight. A total of 102 people on board escaped injury. One traveller rescued from row 37 of the stricken jet said some passengers around him were suspended in their seats, struggling to undo their safety belts as the plane lay belly-up with its landing gear and nose wheel in the air. An American traveller who saw the drama through the window of an airport restaurant said: “It was like watching a movie. “The flight was on fire before it landed. It left a trail of fire, five or six times as long as the plane.” The airport was closed to all flights but reopened at 1am today, using the new northern runway. The wreck remained on the other strip overnight. Taiwanese aviation officials said the cockpit crew had originally decided to fly straight from Bangkok to Taipei, skipping Hong Kong because of the storm. But as they flew nearer to Hong Kong, the winds seemed calm enough to land, they said, quoting the jet’s Taiwanese co-pilot Liu Cheng-hsi. Mr Liu said the right wing dipped about 15 degrees as the jet approached and was hit by a side wind, but the Italian captain did not alter his course and the wing dipped again, striking the runway and catching fire. The Government said the first fire engine was at the scene less than a minute after impact, and the fire was out within 15 minutes. China Airlines spokesman Shi Binghui said from Taipei that while human error could not be ruled out, an “overly hard side wind” had thrown the plane off balance. Director of Civil Aviation Albert Lam Kwong-yu defended the decision to keep the airport running in the typhoon as being in line with international practice. He would not speculate on whether the storm was a factor in the crash. The youngest of those hurt was a four-year-old girl and the eldest was an 81-year-old woman, Ma Po-chi. Secretary for Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said last night: “It was one of the worst aircraft tragedies in Hong Kong’s history. “But in a way we are fortunate that, notwithstanding the seriousness of the accident, there were no more than two fatalities and over 100 were rescued uninjured.” Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said an investigation was under way. China Airlines’ Hong Kong general manager promised to take care of the injured and stranded passengers. The jet had been in service since 1993.