Reprinted from The New York Times
Written By:CAROLINE BROTHERS and SEBNEM ARSU
PARIS — A Turkish Airlines jet carrying 135 people crashed into a field on its approach to Amsterdam’s international airport on Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens, airport authorities and Turkish officials said.
Most of the passengers were Turkish, but there were four Americans, one Briton, and 33 Dutch on the plane as well, according to NTV television. One the Americans aboard the plane, a Boeing 737-800, was a Boeing official, NTV reported.
Television images showed the plane lying fractured into three parts after it slammed into the ground. The aircraft did not catch fire.
Witnesses said the plane’s engines broke off and landed about 100 yards from the fuselage in a plowed field.
Michel Bezuijen, the acting mayor of nearby Haarlemmermeer, told a news conference that there was no immediate word on the cause of the accident. The crash took place in calm weather with a light drizzle.
As of late Wednesday, there were conflicting reports about the number of dead and injured. A Turkish official said at least 10 people had been killed. But Mr. Bezuijen said that nine had died and more than 50 injured.
In a news conference broadcast late Wednesday, a Dutch medical official also said that nine people had been killed. He said that more than 80 passengers had been taken to hospitals with various injuries, including 11 in critical condition. Another official added that emergency workers at the scene could not yet remove the bodies of three crewmembers who died in the cockpit.
“We left them there because we primarily need to investigate the cockpit,” the official said.
In a statement, the Amsterdam airport authorities said the plane, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, which left Istanbul at 8:22 a.m., made a crash landing along a highway near Schiphol Airport with 128 passengers and 7 crew members on board. The 737-800, part of Boeing’s “next generation” family of aircraft, was introduced in 1998 and is powered by CFM engines produced by General Electric and the French manufacturer Snecma.
One survivor, Tuncer Mutlucan, told the Turkish broadcaster NTV: “It was the back of the plane that hit the ground. We left the plane from the back. My colleague and I saw people stuck in between seats as we were trying to leave and we tried to help them.”
“It all happened in something like 10 seconds,” Mr. Mutlucan said
The chairman of Turkish Airlines, Candan Karlitekin, said most of the injured were seated at the back of the plane.
“There was nothing extraordinary about the weather conditions, vision capability was 4,500 meters,” he said. “Around 500 meters away from the landing strip, the plane landed in a field. The plane was broken into three parts, as you all saw in pictures.”
Temel Kotil, the airline’s chief executive, said that the pilot, Hasan Tahsin Ari, was one of the airline’s most experienced. The company was planning to fly relatives of the crash victims from Istanbul to Amsterdam. Flights to and from Schiphol were gradually being resumed, the airport said.
The International Air Transport Association, representing 230 airlines, said last week that the number of fatal air crashes increased to 23 in 2008 from 20 the year before. However, fatalities decreased to 502 from 692 in 2007.
Schiphol was the scene of a catastrophic air crash in 1992 when an El-Al cargo plane hit a high-rise building in the Amsterdam suburb of Bijlmermeer, unleashing an inferno in which 43 people died.
In more recent disasters, 50 people died two weeks ago when a Continental Connections flight operated by Colgan crashed into a house outside of to Buffalo, N.Y.
All passengers and crew escaped from a US Airways plane when the pilot ditched it in the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport earlier year.
Caroline Brothers reported from Paris and Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul.