Three Dead, over 170 Injured as Plane Crashes in Istanbul

On the evening of February 5, an 11-year-old Pegasus Boeing 737 skidded off the runway as it was flying into Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. The passenger jet then broke apart, killing three, according to the reports at time of going to press, and injuring 179.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said the plane failed to "hold onto the runway" as it was buffeted by strong winds and heavy rain lashing Istanbul.

"We are deeply saddened ... [But] we are very happy that we escaped a greater accident," Yerlikaya added, explaining that the plane could have burst into flames and killed everyone on board. Indeed, the videos that were shared on international media, displaying what the Transport Ministry called the “rough landing,” show that some parts of the plane were on fire.

The plane crashed into a field and broke into three pieces. The passengers were left with no other choice than to scramble through the fuselage to escape.

The Boeing 737 operated by Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines had come from the Aegean port city of Izmir, NTV television reported.

It was carrying 177 passengers and six crew members, the governor said, while Turkish media reports said there were 12 children on board.

Early on Thursday, Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca reported that three people had died and 179 were taken to different hospitals.

"We were [on the runway] for some 20 or 30 seconds, then all of a sudden we flew off it; it happened in seconds," survivor Dogus Bilgic, 24, one of the first passengers to get out, told NTV.

NTV showed images of the seriously damaged airplane with flames inside, which were later put out by firefighters. The television broadcaster also reported that among those injured were the plane's two pilots, who, it said, “were in a serious condition.”

Pegasus is a privately-owned, low-cost carrier based in Istanbul that flies 97 routes to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, but mostly within Turkey.

The Boeing 737 crash in Istanbul came not even a month after a Pegasus plane skidded off the runway at the same Sabiha Gokcen International Airport.

On January 7, a Pegasus plane with 164 people on board skidded off the runway, that time not causing injuries to any passenger.

"Pegasus are known for their low fares but it would be unfair to brand them as unsafe just because they offer competitive fares," Alex Macheras said.

"But there will be serious questions asked now that this airline has suffered what is now its second runway excursion in just four weeks at this point," he added.

The airport temporarily shut down following the incident, and dozens of rescue crew members rushed to the scene. Prosecutors have launched an investigation to determine if there was anything else other than bad weather that caused the Boeing 737 crash.

By Nini Dakhundaridze

Image source: ABC News

06 February 2020 16:25