A Miami-bound jetliner taxied down a runway, crashed through a fence and exploded into flames, but all 22 people aboard evacuated the plane moments before it caught fire.
The accident occurred as the Lacsa Boeing 727-100 tried to take off Monday carrying eight crew members and 14 passengers, including seven Americans."Miraculously, there were no deaths," said Juan Manuel Fernandez, financial vice president of Lacsa, the Costa Rican airliner.
Ten people were treated for minor injuries and released from Alajuela Hospital, airline officials said.
Lacsa Flight 628 was scheduled to stop in Managua, Nicaragua, before continuing to Miami.
Officials said the plane left the terminal of the Juan Santamaria International Airport at 4:55 p.m. (6:55 p.m. EDT), taxied down the runway and crashed through a fence surrounding the airport after failing to take off.
The plane came to a stop about 600 yards beyond the fence on a grassy area, where it burst into flames. The aircraft broke into three sections.
"During takeoff, for unknown reasons, the plane left the runway, stopping finally outside the airport boundary," said the Lacsa statement.
"After the successful evacuation of all the passengers and crew members, the plane was consumed by flames," it said.
The wreckage was still blazing 11/2 hours after the explosion and wreckage was spread over a wide area.
"Thanks to the skill of the pilots, they were able to evacuate the passengers, just a few minutes before the plane burst into flames," Fernandez said.
Co-pilot Armando Rojas told reporters that the passengers remained calm.
"With nerves of steel we were able to evacuate all the passengers," Rojas said. "A few minutes later, maybe five minutes, the plane burst into flames."
In addition to the Americans, the passengers included a West German, two Cubans living in Miami, two Nicaraguans and two Costa Ricans, the airline said. The crew was Costa Rican.
Fernandez told reporters the cause of the explosion was under investigation by officials of Lacsa, Boeing and the Costa Rican civil aviation agency.
Witnesses said flames shot up more than 130 feet after the explosion. The plane broke up into three parts, with the cockpit in one section and the passenger cabin split in two, witnesses said.
Fernandez said the plane was 16 years old and was leased a year ago from Avensa Leasing Corp.