Two jets collide: panicked passengers watch in horror as aircraft wing bursts into flames at Toronto airport
Video footage from the plane inbound from Cancun, Mexico showed flames on the wing with passengers screaming after their plane was struck by another aircraft moving back from a gate.
Two jetliners collided at a Toronto airport, setting a wing on fire and sending dozens of terrified passengers fleeing into the cold.
A Boeing 737 landed at Pearson International Airport shortly after sundown Friday, ferrying 168 WestJet passengers from Cancun, Mexico.
Outside, on an evening of record-setting cold in Toronto, workers were towing an empty Sunwing plane across the airfield.
Neither of the two airlines or Swissport, whose worker was towing the empty plane, have explained how it managed to hit the WestJet flight.
Many passengers have described what it felt like.
The plane was still waiting to park at 6:20pm, according to the airport.
Passenger Stephen Belford wrote that the pilot had just announced there was staffing shortage over the intercom – and then came the jolt.
A post shared by Stephen Belford (@stephen_belford) on Jan 5, 2018 at 4:21pm PST
The empty plane – also a 737 – backed straight into the WestJet flight, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
“There was an audible crunch, and the plane rocked slightly,” Gustavo Lobo told the outlet.
“Everyone was a little shocked and kind of chuckling at the situation.”
People watched as something started to spew out of one of the plane wings. “And then it set in that it’s not steam, it’s gas,” a passenger told CTV News.
“And then the whole thing ignites and everyone starts panicking.”
“Big fire!” someone yells in a video from the WestJet flight.
People screamed, some thinking their own plane was on fire.
“Remain seated, remain seated, remain seated,” someone urged, but not everyone listened. People stood in the aisle. A small girl stood up in her seat and wheeled around as flames shot off Sunwing’s wing outside her window.
Seated with his wife and 12-year-old son, Ali Alagheband told CBC News, he managed to stay calm until black smoke began to fill the cabin.
“Oh, f- me,” someone yelled in a video.
The conversation over air traffic control radio was calmer, but no less dire.
“We’re on fire,” a pilot said in monotone, as reported by Global News.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday. We’re evacuating.”
Aircraft involved in last night’s collision at Toronto Pearson;
C-FPRP Boeing 737-800
May 2015 Serial 39959
C-FDMB Boeing 737-800
Dec 2014 Serial 60127 pic.twitter.com/rBsuDeaX1V
— Tom Podolec (@TomPodolec) January 6, 2018
The decision to flee was soon relayed to the back of the plane.
A flight attendant went down the aisle repeating: “Evacuate, evacuate.” Not everyone heard, CBC News reported, and only realised they could leave when a man stood up on his seat and yelled that the emergency exit was open.
“Grab your jacket, guys,” a man said in the video.
But even then, several passengers reported that the aisles were blocked by people searching for their overhead bags.
It was ridiculous,” Alagheband told CBC News.
“I was literally yelling, ‘Get the F off the plane’.”
In the end everyone made it off. They slid out of the plane into subfreezing weather, onto an airfield that reeked of burned fumes.
About 15 minutes after the crash, WestJet tweeted: “Guests are safely in the terminal and they are in the process of clearing customs.”
Update 1 [18:36 MT] - All 168 guests and six crew are accounted for. We can confirm guests are safely in the terminal and they are in the process of clearing customs.
— WestJet (@WestJet) January 6, 2018
Emergency vehicles surrounded the planes, creating a spectacle at the gates. Firefighters extinguished the fire before it spread beyond the wing, but one was injured and taken to a hospital.
An airport spokeswoman said the firefighter was later released and would recover.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board arrived after the fire and started interviewing passengers, a spokesman for the agency said.
Investigators plan to speak with the flight crew and anyone else involved before releasing details about the collision.
Adrianna Lobo told CTV News she only began to comprehend the events after she and her children had escaped.
“I started crying because I realised what happened,” she said.