An Indonesian passenger jet filled with vacationers aborted its takeoff Thursday and exploded into flames after skidding on its belly into a muddy field in southern Japan. Three people died, and 108 were injured.
Nearly all of the 275 people aboard, most of them Japanese, managed to flee before soaring flames gutted the Garuda Indonesian Airways DC-10, which had left the Fukuoka airport bound for the resort island of Bali and then on to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.Passengers said the plane was airborne only a few seconds, jerking and bouncing violently as it rose from the runway. As it jolted back to earth, the cabin ceiling caved in and smoke began filling the cabin.
"I heard this terrible metallic scraping noise when the plane hit the ground," passenger Kazumi Yoshitake, 28, told Kyodo News. "I heard a woman scream. Another passenger yelled that the plane was on fire and to get out quickly."
The plane plowed through a fence and careened across an access road, cutting a wide brown swath through a field at the runway's end. It stopped just short of another road, with pieces of the landing gear and fuselage strewn over 100 yards.
Smoke poured from the husk of the blue-and-white plane as police searched the wreckage. Passengers, many of them wearing resort clothing, stood by in shock or were carried away on stretchers.
The cause of the accident was not known. An air traffic controller said he saw flames coming from one of the engines as the plane was taking off, NHK said. An airport worker said he saw flames from the right engine.
In Indonesia, Communications Minister Haryanto Dhanutirto said preliminary reports indicated the crash apparently was caused by trouble in an engine at the tail of the plane.
"To know the real reason for the accident, we'll have to waitfor the results of the investigation," he told reporters, adding that Indonesian officials were en route to Japan to investigate.
Analysts told Japanese TV that the pilot may have waited too long to abort the takeoff after realizing he had engine trouble. Weather did not appear to be a factor in the crash; it was cloudy with light winds and visibility of about 15 miles.
Passengers fled the smoke-filled plane using escape chutes or leaping directly out the exits. The flight attendants "were just shouting - there was no guidance from them," 26-year-old passenger Toshihiro Aizono, who escaped unhurt, told the national Asahi newspaper.
In Indonesia, officials of Garuda - the airline is named for a mythical bird that is the country's national symbol - confirmed the plane's destination and said it carried 261 passengers plus a crew of 14.
NHK, which said there were only 260 passengers on the plane, reported 256 were Japanese, two were Indonesian, one was South Korean and one was North Korean. Local police could not confirm the figures.
Police said that six people unaccounted for on the passenger list had left the crash scene without checking with officials. Rescuers concluded their search of the plane, and the death toll stood at three.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashi-moto extended his sympathies to those hurt and to the families of the dead. The injured included the pilot, who was taken to a local hospital, and one person who was on the road when the plane skidded across.
Japan's last major commercial airline accident was on April 26, 1994, when a China Airlines A-320 Airbus arriving from Taipei crashed as it attempted to land in Nagoya. It was the country's second-worst crash, killing 264 of the 271 passengers.
Garuda's last major crash was on April 4, 1987, when a DC-9 jetliner crashed after being struck by lightning while trying to land in Medan, the capital of Indonesia's North Sumatra province. Twenty-eight people died.