The 103 survivors of Tuesday’s AeroMexico crash realize they are lucky to be alive.
“I feel that it’s kind of a miracle that we all made it,” passenger Alberto Herrera, 35, told NBC’s Today Show. “It’s just a blessing that I’m here to tell the story the next day.”
On Tuesday night, Aeromexico Flight 2431 attempted to take off from Durango, Mexico (DGO) for Mexico City (MEX) during bad weather and strong winds. The Embraer E-190 regional jet attempted to abort the takeoff, the Durango state governor José Rosas Aispuro Torres said, but was too late in doing so and went down just after the runway ended, at around 4:00pm local time.
“If you’ve ever heard of spider sense, essentially, you kind of felt like something was wrong,” Herrera, who is a Chicago resident and avid flyer, said of the plane’s shaky takeoff. “At that point, I just started, out of instinct, bracing for impact as the plane started jolting.”
Other passengers realized something wasn’t right as the plane took off, too. “We took off — it was pouring rain — honestly I thought ‘Why in the world are we even taking off?'” Dorelia Rivera, who was on the plane with her daughter, told NBC Chicago.
All 103 people — 99 passengers and four crew — on board survived the fiery crash. Among the passengers were 88 adults, nine children and two babies, and a crew of two flight attendants and two pilots, Aeromexico said. Authorities said 85 people were injured, and 49 people hospitalized — most with minor ailments. Herrera walked away with nothing more than a couple of scraped knees.
Herrera said the plane flew directly into a hail storm once it took off from DGO. “You can feel the wind, and you can feel the hail hitting the airplane like at maximum speed,” he said. “It’s kind of like we hit the storm, that hail storm, right at its peak so the wind was insane.”
When the plane crashed to the ground, it skidded to a stop and almost immediately burst into flames.
“The cabin just started filling with black smoke,” Herrera said. “At that point, what we wanted to do, we wanted to try to find the nearest exit.”
The plane’s emergency slides inflated, but they were not able to be used, Herrera said. So, he helped other passengers climb down from the exit. In the crash, both of the aircraft engines tore off and the left wing struck the ground.
“We heard a loud noise behind us,” Dorelia Rivera said. “And the next thing we knew it was starting to smoke and fire.” She said passengers were pushing to get off the plane, and someone even pushed her young daughter in order to evacuate. All she could grab was her daughter’s hand and the medication that keeps her child alive.
“It was really, really ugly,” Lorenzo Nunez, who was on the flight with his two sons and wife, told reporters. “It burned in a question of seconds.”
Aviation experts say that passengers have a better chance of surviving such a plane crash today, thanks to improved aircraft construction.
Air safety investigator Adrian Young, who works for aviation consultancy To70, told the AP that survival rates in plane crashes “are higher than they have ever been” partly because “airplanes are stronger than ever.” Also, plane manufacturers use materials on the aircraft interior that do not burn as quickly and don’t emit poisonous fumes, Young said.
But, according to Young, no matter the plane’s construction, “good fortune is crucial in any accident.”
And the passengers of Aeromexico Flight 2431 are aware of their good fortune.
“You say a little prayer and you hope for the best,” Herrera said. “And you hope you said ‘I love you’ to the loved ones you left behind here in Mexico and in Chicago.”
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