Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with reporting from Amsterdam
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife) — A Turkish Airlines passenger plane with 135 people aboard crashed into a field in light fog while trying to land at Amsterdam’s main airport Wednesday, February 25, killing nine people and injuring more than 50, an area official said.
Haarlemmermeer acting Mayor Michel Bezuijen told reporters that 50 people were injured, 25 severely, when flight 1951 from Istanbul, Turkey, went down at 10:31 local time (0931 UTC), short of a runway at Schiphol, Europe’s fifth-largest by passenger volume.
The incident came amid revelations that Turkish Airlines has Europe’s worst safety record, BosNewsLife established.
It was the Netherlands’ first deadly plane crash in 13 years. Dutch television showed what appeared to be covered bodies on the ground near the crashed single-aisle Boeing 737-800 jetliner. The crumpled aircraft lay in three parts, with the tail section of the fuselage broken off, and a wide crack in the fuselage just behind the cockpit.
One engine was visible lying almost intact near the wreck in the muddy field and the other was some 200 yards (200 meters) from the plane and heavily damaged, witnesses said. The airliner had not caught fire.
The cause of the crash was still not clear, acting Major Bezuijen said. Yet, Wim Kok, a spokesman for the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, said “There is no single indication that terrorism has something to do with the crashed plane at Schiphol.”
Terrorism remains an issue here, as the latest Terrorist Threat Assessment Netherlands described the terror threat as “substantial”, the second highest of four possible levels.
The aircraft’s Black Box, a crucial recording device, was expected to be important for an investigation into the reasons why the seven-year old aircraft crashed.
Witnesses suggested there may have been technical troubles as the plane’s engines apparently broke off and landed not far from the wrecked fuselage in the plowed field. Candan Karlitekin, the chairman of Turkish Airlines, said “There was nothing extraordinary about the weather conditions, vision capability was 4,500 meters.” He stressed that the pilot, Hasan Tahsin Ari, was one of the airline’s most experienced pilots.
Karlitekin added that most of the injured were seated at the back of the plane. Dozens of people, including Mustafa Bahcecioglu, managed to leave the aircraft themselves. “I was woken up when the plane began to shake violently. Ten seconds later we smashed to the ground,” he told Dutch NOS television.
“I and a group of people managed to escape through an exit. We also helped women and children. Of course people died, I am sure about it,” Bahcecioglu said.
He suggested it was a miracle he had survived without injuries. “It’s like winning the lottery, it’s unbelievable. I don’t have a scratch.” But many others were rushed to nearby hospitals.
Traumatized friends and family members, who were awaiting the arrival of the plane at Schiphol airport, were transported to a nearby sportshal. Turkish Airlines said it was also planning a flight to Amsterdam from Istanbul for other relatives of the crash victims.
POOR SAFETY RECORD
The latest crash underscored concerns over the safety record of the airline. Website Airsafe.com, which monitors civil airplane crashes, said Turkish Airlines had the most deadly crashes of all European carriers, Worthy News established.
Wednesday’s incident was the airline’s 6th deadly crash since 1974. In 1974 some 360 people died in a crash near Paris; three years later a plane went down in southern Turkey, killing 155 people, half of them Italian tourists.
In the 1990s, Turkish Airlines was twice involved in an accident, including in 1994 when 53 people died after a Boeing 737 crashed in a heavy snow storm in eastern Turkey. A similar plane crashed in 1999, killing six crew members, as there were no other passengers on board.
In 2003, a Turkish Airlines RJ100 departed from Istanbul and crashed shortly before landing in Diyarbakir, a city near Turkey’s border with Iraq. Four of the five crew members and 71 of the 75 passengers died in that disaster. Despite these revelations, the European Union has so far refused to place Turkey’s Airlines on its blacklist for airlines.
Wednesday’s incident reminded Dutch citizens to two crashes in the 1990s. In 1992, an Israeli El Al 747 cargo plane crashed into an apartment complex at Bijlmermeer, an Amsterdam neighborhood, killing 43 people. Four years later, a C-130 Hercules plane of the Belgian Air Force caught fire after landing at Eindhoven Airport, in southern Netherlands, killing 32 passengers.
Dutch Transport Minister Camiel Eurlings, a Christian Democrat, said the government was mourning the victims of the latest crash, and would attempt “to give clarity” to those seeking answers. (BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).