Passengers panicked as plane crashed

Thursday, February 6, 2020
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The wreckage of a plane operated by Pegasus Airlines lies on the ground after it skidded Wednesday off the runway at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport, in Istanbul, Thursday.

ISTANBUL (AP) — Passengers on the Turkish airliner that crash-landed and crumpled into pieces in Istanbul, killing three people, say the plane’s descent felt unusually fast and left those on board screaming and panicking.

Engin Demir, who was among the 180 people injured in the crash, told NTV television that he really noticed the speed as the Boeing 737 operated by low-cost Pegasus Airline landed at Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Wednesday evening.

Coming in amid strong winds and heavy rain, the plane overshot the runway. It skidded about 165 to 200 feet before dropping into a 98-foot high ditch, according to the city’s governor, Ali Yerlikaya. The 11-year-old plane broke into three pieces, forcing passengers to squeeze out through cracks in the plane’s fuselage or climb onto its damaged wings. 

“With the speed, I think it was not able to stop. It all happened in 2-3 seconds,” Demir said from his hospital bed in Istanbul.

Demir said he was temporarily trapped by debris falling from the luggage compartment.

“There were screams and shouts. I tried to calm people around me. Help soon arrived,” he said.

Another survivor, Alper Kulu, told the DHA news agency that the flight was “abnormal from the start to the finish.” 

“It was a very turbulent flight. The plane touched down with difficulty. It was very speedy compared to other flights,” he said, noting with irony that “a ‘Welcome to Istanbul’ announcement was made after the wheels touched down.”

He said the plane suddenly swayed left and right, then dipped as it fell into the steep ditch. He said the impact of the landing flipped the fixed seats in front of him completely around. Despite a broken arm, he struggled to get out quickly and climb up the steep ditch, fearing the plane could explode in flames.