Two American tourists and British family survived a horrific air crash in Burma on Tuesday when their packed plane came down in heavy fog and burst into flames.
The Air Bagan jet, carrying 65 Christmas holidaymakers, from Mandalay crashed as it approached Heho airport in the east of Burma, gateway to the popular tourist destination Inle Lake.
Three Burmese were killed in the tragedy – a tour guide and an 11-year-old child on board the plane, as well as a man riding a motorcycle on the road where it came down.
More than 50 of the 65 passengers were said to be non-Burmese.
An airport official said: ‘The aircraft was extensively damaged. People who got out can count themselves extremely fortunate.’
The airline described the incident as an ‘emergency landing’.
Fire was said to have broken out in one of the plane’s engines and it reportedly struck part of a mountain as it approached Heho airport in fog. Authorities however gave a different account, saying the pilot mistook the road for a runway due to bad weather.
‘While descending, the plane mistakenly landed due to fog,’ state television reported.
It said the aircraft made a hard landing on a road and then came to a stop in a rice paddy field.
State television said the plane missed the runway because of fog
Rescuers managed to bring the fire under control about 45 minutes later, he said.
Witnesses said smoke filled the plane when it hit the ground and was still rising from the aircraft’s badly-charred wreckage hours later.
Air Bagan is owned by Tay Za, a tycoon known for his close links to the former military junta. The airline had two Fokker 100 jets, which are no longer manufactured. The injured passengers were taken to hospital in the city of Taunggyi for treatment for broken bones, burns, cuts and shock.
First pictures of the scene of the crash reveal how lucky anyone was to get out alive. The aircraft lay in pieces in a field with soldiers guarding the wreckage. An airline check of the passengers revealed that one was missing.
A search of the wreckage revealed a body, believed to be that of the 11-year-old child. Air Bagan is one of several domestic carriers seeking to profit from the tourist boom as Burma emerges from military rule.
There has been an increase in tourism in the past 12 months as the ruling junta has relaxed its control and, for the first time in decades, opened up the country to foreigners.
Source: The Daily Mail