An Alitalia Airliner on a special Christmas holiday flight with 125 people aboard plunged into the Mediterranean while approaching Palermo's seaside airport early on Saturday (23 December).
GV injured survivors being carried to ambulances at night, in Sicily
SV injured carried to ambulance
GV ambulance driving away
GV tug pulls in with rescued survivors (TWO SHOTS)
SV bloodstained survivor being carried from boat
SV PAN FROM onlookers TO re-unions of survivors with friends and relatives (TWO SHOTS)
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Background: An Alitalia Airliner on a special Christmas holiday flight with 125 people aboard plunged into the Mediterranean while approaching Palermo's seaside airport early on Saturday (23 December). Trawlers fishing near the crash scene just north of the fishing village of Punta Raisi were the first to arrive to begin a rescue operation.
SYNOPSIS: The passengers, were travelling in a DC-9, on a domestic flight from Rome to Palermo and Catania. Airport officials report that the plane cut short its approach and attempted to make an emergency landing in the Mediterranean Sea shortly before on a.m. (midnight GMT) but suddenly the plane lost power. It came down within a few hundred metres of a trawler, whose captain reported, it sank shortly after it went into the sea.
At least twenty-three people, some of them unconscious, bleeding and with their clothes torn in shreds were rescued.
One of the survivors told his rescuers that the minute the plane hit the sea pandemonium broke out. He said nobody knew what was happening, but there was a terrible crash in the forward part of the plane near the cockpit. The pilot's last message indicated his engines were losing power and that he was aborting his approach to attempt an emergency sea landing. None of the survivors even had time to put on their life jackets.
The plane was believed to be carrying many Italian migrant workers returning to their homes in Sicily for Christmas. Alitalia had not released the passenger list early on Saturday (23 December). Thousands of workers have been waiting at Rome's airport to take a number of special flights south. In Palermo, the few lucky survivors had emotional reunion with their relatives.