At least 133 passengers and crew died when a Portuguese Airlines Boeing 727 crashed while landing at Funchal on the island of Madeira on Saturday night (19 November).
At least 133 passengers and crew died when a Portuguese Airlines Boeing 727 crashed while landing at Funchal on the island of Madeira on Saturday night (19 November). Thirty four survivors were taken to hospital. The crash was the worst disaster in the 33-year history of the Portuguese national airline.
SYNOPSIS: As Sunday sightseers crowded the crash area the next day, troops and police mounted guard over the wreckage. Eyewitnesses said that, as the pilot tried to land in driving rain, the plane sped down the runway past the airport's terminal building. It then leapt 450 feet (150 metres) over a road at the end of the runway and pancaked to a halt only 15 feet from the open sea, breaking up in flames.
Bodies and wreckage were catapulted into the sea below. Crash debris was washed up along the beach. All that remained of the cabin section was a charred shell of twisted metal. It is thought the aircraft split in two as it hit the beach. Many survivors were rescued from the water. The only survivors among the crew were a steward and stewardess.
The accident broke an enviable record for the Portuguese airline -- of never having lost a passenger. Soon after the crash, a special commission of inquiry began an on-the-spot investigation.
The airport at Funchal is carved out of the volcanic rock of the coastline. It is considered a miracle of modern engineering, but it has a short runway and is not popular with pilots.
A hospital spokesman said that four or five of the 34 survivors were dangerously ill, most of them with burns. The others were already talking of their miraculous escape.