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Survivors recount Thai jet crash

  • Story Highlights
  • Thai air crash kills 88 people, with 40 known survivors, officials say
  • America's NTSB sending an investigation team, flight recorders recovered
  • One-Two-GO airways jet was trying to land in Phuket in bad weather
  • Mother of survivor: 'They knew that they were going to crash'
  • Next Article in World »
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PHUKET, Thailand (CNN) -- Experts investigating the Thai plane crash have recovered the plane's flight data recorders, officials said Monday as survivors of the disaster recalled how their holiday jet careered off the runway and was engulfed in fire.


Rescue workers examine the scene of the One-Two-GO Airlines plane crash Monday in Phuket.

Sunday's crash left 88 people dead and investigators trying to determine just what caused the smash at the airport at Phuket in southern Thailand.

Thailand's Deputy Transportation Minister Sansern Wongchaum said that results from the recorders would take around a week to come back. "Then we will analyze and then we will ... see what the real reason is of the situation here," he said.

American crash investigators are likely to aid enquiries. The aircraft that crashed was a U.S.-made McDonnell Douglas MD-82, and the National Transportation Safety Board will assist the Thai government in the investigation, according to a statement on the NTSB's Web site.

Only 40 of the 130 passengers onboard the flight survived as the plane skidded off the rain-soaked, wind-swept runway and smashed into a hillside in flames.

As fire spread through the wreckage of the One-Two-GO jet, those who were able scrambled for the exits. Video Watch a survivor recall the fiery horror »

Erik Nihlen, a Swedish tourist who helped open an emergency exit door, told his mother that he and other passengers had feared the aircraft might crash as strong winds buffeted the plane during its second attempt at landing on Sunday.

"When they were up in the air, they thought something was not right," Maria Nihlen said. "Before the second (landing attempt), they knew that they were going to crash and they formed into position for an emergency landing and, well, then it happened."

She said her son -- who suffered minor bruises -- was stuck in his seat belt as passengers climbed over him to get to the exit door, which was still closed.

"People were falling over him ... and then the shelf fell over him from above," she said. "But he and his friend managed to actually push hard away the people to be able to open the emergency exit door."

John Gerard O'Donnell, an Irishman who spoke to the reporters from his hospital bed, said he escaped by climbing out an exit door onto the plane's wing.

"I just can't get my head around what happened," said O'Donnell, whose face and arms were bandaged.

"As the plane was landing, you could tell it was in trouble 'cause it kind of landed and came up again," he said.

"Then the second time, it just smashed."

He said the exit door was "kind of crushed, but we got to squeeze through and onto the wing."

"My friend was outside, I seen him, he got out before me, and next thing it really caught fire then," O'Donnell said. "I just got badly burnt -- my face, my legs, my arms."

He said he had arrived Saturday in Bangkok and intended to spend the week in Phuket with his friend, who underwent surgery for his injuries.

William Harding, who witnessed the crash from another One-Two-GO aircraft that had landed just five minutes before, said he saw flames engulf the plane.

"After about five minutes of burning, there was a small explosion that blew off the top of the plane," he said.

"My friend (who also witnessed the crash) ... was saying that in that flight some of the crew jumped at the last minute and the plane kind of burst into flames."

Flight 269 was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew members when it left Bangkok at 2:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. GMT), a spokesman for the Thai discount airliner said. It crashed shortly after landing in the resort town of Phuket at approximately 3:50 p.m. (8:50 a.m. GMT), he said.

Nationalities of the injured include British, Swedish, Iranian, Austrian, Australian, Thai, German, Irish, Italian, Israeli and Dutch, authorities said.

Israel's Ambassador to Thailand, Yael Rubinstein, said at least two of the 10 Israeli citizens who were on board the flight are alive and were only lightly injured. The other eight Israelis are missing at this time, the ambassador said.

One-Two-GO Airlines

  • Asia's only low-cost airline to offer a one-price policy to all destinations operating from Thailand
  • Orient Thai Airways subsidiary
  • Founded: December 3, 2003
  • Flights per week: 168
  • Fleet: 13 aircraft
  • The death toll climbed to 88 Monday as diplomats and investigators converged on the scene of Sunday's deadly crash.

    "At this time, the death toll is at 88, and salvaging of the plane is still going on and we expect that this will finish today," said Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. "Now, the deputy director of the Airports of Thailand and the Minister of Transport are trying to find more dead bodies that may still be within the plane's debris."

    At least four Americans were killed in the crash, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said.

    Piriya Khempon with Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there are 40 known survivors, with two people unaccounted for.

    "We are trying our best to cope with the situation," he said, adding officials from the German, British, French, Israeli and Australia embassies had arrived on a ministry flight overnight.

    Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Canberra was ready to help.

    "We are offering the Thai government the assistance of an Australian Federal Police disaster victim identification team," Howard said. "We have five police victim identification experts ready to go to Thailand straight away."

    Flights from Phuket International Airport were canceled following the crash and remained closed on Monday.

    Phuket International Airport is the second-busiest airport in Thailand, according to the airport's Web site. The airport is about 20 miles (32 km) from downtown Phuket.

    One-Two-GO's Web site says the four-year-old company had 13 aircraft and operated 168 flights per week in Thailand. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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