August 17, 2010 – Miraculously only one of the 131 passengers aboard the Aires Airlines 737-700 jet that crashed Monday morning in Columbia, breaking the plane into three pieces and leaving it in shreds, died.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Columbian authorities said the seven-year-old jet crashed during an early-morning thunderstorm while trying to land at the Colombian resort island of San Andrés off the Nicaraguan coast.
The plane reportedly slammed into the ground short of the runway, breaking up and shedding portions of engines and landing gear.
The nose and front section of the cabin were found on the runway behind a rear portion of the fuselage.
According to officials, they believe the 68-year-old woman who died suffered from a heart attack and did not die from the impact of the crash.
What helped reduce the number of fatalities were the quick response of emergency crews that aided passengers off the plane and their ability to prevent a major fire.
Another factor was that the pilots appeared to lose control close to the ground, local officials said.
Emergency crews said 125 passengers were taken to hospitals, four with serious injuries.
Transportation Minister German Cardona said weather conditions were “very difficult”, with reports of gusty winds and intense lightning.
The pilot, Wilson Gutierrez, told television reporters that the plane was struck by lightning less than 90 yards from the approach end of the runway, according to General Orlando Paez of the National Police.
Safety experts expect the accident will raise questions as to why the pilots attempted to land amid the difficult weather conditions.
It is not uncommon for lighting to strike an aircraft, but no modern Western jetliner in recent years has been brought down by a lightning strike, safety experts say.
The lightning could have distracted the crew or interfered with critical flight-control systems.
A Boeing Co. spokeswoman said Monday that the company will provide technical assistance to Colombian crash investigators, and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it will also participate in the probe.
Many jetliner landing accidents result in large numbers of fatalities, intense fires, and the plane breaking into pieces after slamming into natural or man-made obstacles.
One Columbian official said it was a “miracle” that all but one passenger survived. Monday’s crash.
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Wall Street Journal