From: Reuters
Published May 30, 2008 07:47 PM

Plane skids off runway in Honduras, 5 dead

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A Salvadoran passenger plane skidded off a rain-soaked runway on landing at Tegucigalpa airport in Honduras on Friday, killing five people and injuring 38 as it veered onto a road and smashed into cars and a building.

The TACA airlines Airbus A320, on a flight from San Salvador with 135 passengers and crew, lay broken in three parts and was spewing fuel after the accident, which happened in heavy rain and fog.

Passengers, some with blood streaming from their faces, stumbled out of the plane over the broken wings as onlookers rushed to pull survivors from the smoking plane, Reuters television images showed.

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A paramedic tried to resuscitate one man in the wreckage, while injured passengers sat stunned on the side of the road. One woman with a head wound asked repeatedly, "Where am I?"

Passersby struggled to pry open the cockpit to free the trapped pilots, one of whom died in a hospital.

The plane circled the airport several times before attempting to land in heavy fog, survivor Mario Castillo told Honduran television.

"Suddenly we felt a big noise and we were all trying desperately to get out," Castillo said. "The worst injured were the people in business class."

The plane skidded off the runway, which was sodden with rain from Tropical Storm Alma, and crashed through a fence into a busy road, killing two people in their cars. Two passengers also died.

Thirty-eight people were injured, local emergency services chief Carlos Cordero told Reuters.

Authorities closed the airport and transferred commercial flights to a military airport.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.

TREACHEROUS AIRPORT

Tegucigalpa is nestled in hills and has a reputation as one of the most treacherous airports in Latin America due to a difficult approach.

But Boris Ferrera, an official with Honduras' civil aviation authority, said there was plenty of room for the plane to land.

One of the dead was Harry Brautigam, a Nicaraguan who headed the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, TACA said. He died in a hospital after being dragged from the wreckage by rescue workers.

"The plane landed on the runway and braked and braked but it seems that the rain and the wet made it slip off," said an airport security official who witnessed the accident.

TACA said in a statement the plane was carrying 124 passengers and 11 crew. A local TACA manager said earlier there were 142 people on board.

"I am thanking God I am alive -- there are other passengers who are in a very bad way," survivor Roberto Sosa told Honduran radio.

The last time El Salvador's TACA was involved in an accident was in 1993 when a Boeing 767 airliner overran the runway as it was landing in Guatemala City and crashed into some houses. Nobody was killed.

(Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Cyntia Barrera in Mexico City and Alberto Barrera in El Salvador; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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