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Three dead, more than 170 injured as Turkey plane overruns runway and crashes

13:17 | 06/02/2020

Three people have died and 179 were injured when the Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-86J plane skidded off the runway at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, caught fire and split into three after landing in the rough weather.

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three dead more than 170 injured as turkey plane overruns runway and crashes
A view of the Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-86J plane, that overran the runway during landing and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, Turkey February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Live images broadcast on Turkish television showed several people climbing through a large crack in the severed aircraft and escaping onto one of the wings at the rear.

three dead more than 170 injured as turkey plane overruns runway and crashes
First responders work at the site of the Pegasus Airlines plane that overran the runway and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, Turkey February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The Boeing 737 operated by Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines had flown into Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport from the Aegean port city of Izmir on Wednesday, NTV television reported.

The plane was apparently buffeted by strong winds and heavy rain lashing Istanbul, Turkey's largest city.

Three Turks were killed and 179 injured, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters.

"Some passengers evacuated the plane by themselves but others are stuck inside and our rescuers are working to free them," Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan said on CNN-Turk television.

three dead more than 170 injured as turkey plane overruns runway and crashes
First responders surround the severed fuselage of the Pegasus Airlines plane that overran the runway and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, Turkey February 5, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The plane was carrying 177 passengers and six crew members, state news agency Anadolu said, revising the previous total given by Turkish authorities. Turkish media reports said there were 12 children on board.

Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya said the plane "slid some 60 metres" after skidding off the runway, and then "fell about 30 to 40 metres" down a bank.

The accident, which he attributed to bad weather, "could have had more serious consequences", he said.

NTV showed images of the badly damaged plane and flames inside, which were later put out by firefighters.

After darkness fell, television footage showed dozens of rescue workers in high-visibility jackets surrounding the plane with flashlights.

Some sprayed water jets onto the severed body of the aircraft, while others could be seen climbing up onto the plane to comb through the cabin.

"STRONG LANDING"

According to NTV, Turhan said the plane broke after a "strong landing" at Sabiha Gokcen, one of two main international airports in Istanbul.

The front of the plane including the cockpit was sliced off from the bulk of the fuselage, and another huge fissure separated the rear of the aircraft including the tail.

Sabiha Gokcen, which lies on the Asian side of Turkey's commercial hub, was closed and flights were being redirected to Istanbul's main airport.

There had been very strong winds and rain in the area before the incident and poor weather conditions in Istanbul, particularly in winter, often lead to the cancellation of flights.

The Istanbul public prosecutor has launched an investigation into the incident.

The plane had landed at the airport at 1518 GMT, the private DHA news agency reported.

The accident comes a month after a Pegasus plane with 164 people on board skidded off the runway in Istanbul at the same airport. There were no deaths or injuries in that incident on Jan. 7.

In January 2018, another Boeing 737-800 in the Pegasus fleet slid off a runway at northeastern Turkey’s Trabzon Airport and down a dirt embankment. The plane came to rest in the dirt above the Black Sea with its nose pointed toward the water. None of the 168 passengers and crew members were injured.

In 2013, the tail of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 broke off after the jet hit a seawall during approach to San Francisco International Airport. Three people died, 49 were seriously injured and scores more suffered minor injuries, according to the U.S. accident report.

That same year, a Lion Air Boeing 737 split in two after landing in shallow water short of the runway in Bali, Indonesia. All 101 passengers and seven crew members survived./.

VNF/AFP