Plane Crash in Turkey
Kills 75 People

 
Wed Jan 8, 4:27 PM ET
 

By JAMES C. HELICKE, Associated Press Writer

ISTANBUL, Turkey - A turkish Airlines jet crashed in heavy fog Wednesday night as it tried to land at an airport in southeastern Turkey, killing 75 people.

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One of the five survivors told of falling from the plane after it split apart on impact and landing in a pile of hay.

"The plane split in two and was burning. Then there was an explosion.... The whole plane was burning," Aliye Il told the Anatolia news agency.

She said the haystack that cushioned her fall then caught fire, forcing her to run for safety. Anatolia did not give the woman's age.

While Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said there was heavy fog at the time of the crash at Diyarbakir airport, 635 miles southeast of Istanbul, he said the precise cause would not be known until the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders were recovered.

The four-engine British Aerospace RJ 100 jet hit the ground 40 yards short of the runway in the military section of the dual-use airport at Diyarbakir, a largely Kurdish city 75 miles north of the Syrian border.

Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu said 72 people died. He told NTV television soldiers helped evacuate the injured.

As relatives of passengers crowed the airport for news of loved ones, Diyarbakir Governor Ahmet Cemil Serhadli reported the fire caused by the crash had been extinguished.

The five injured were taken to Diyarbakir's central hospital and CNN-Turk television said they were in shock but had no life threatening injuries. There were no reports of injuries among people on the ground.

Last week, several flights to Diyarbakir were canceled because of bad weather.

In November, a Russian small plane carrying 28 people crashed near an airport in the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya after it clipped a power line. No one was killed.

In May 2001, a military transport plane crashed in southeastern Turkey, killing 34 officers and soldiers from Turkey's elite special forces.

A civilian jetliner crashed in eastern Turkey in 1991, killing 55 people after the pilot insisted on landing despite a snowstorm that drastically cut visibility.

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Seventy-Five Killed in Turkish Airliner Crash
2 hours, 11 minutes ago
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By Ekrem Aykut

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A Turkish Airlines passenger plane crashed in southeast Turkey and burst into flames as it tried to land, killing 75 people, officials and witnesses said.

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Prime Minister Abdullah Gul ruled out a "terrorist" attack, saying the cause of Wednesday's crash appeared to be the heavy fog that had enshrouded the city of Diyarbakir for several days.

Five passengers who were pulled out of the wreckage alive remained in hospital, some of them in serious condition. A two-year-old child who had been taken to hospital was pronounced brain dead early on Thursday.

The Turkish Airlines plane, an RJ100, which had been flying from Istanbul to Diyarbakir, the capital of the mainly Kurdish southeast, crashed into a field as it made its landing approach. Fierce fire hampered rescue attempts.

Ambulances and fire tenders rushed to the scene, and military helicopters hovered overhead playing spotlights on the crash site through thick fog. Rescue forces checked inside the wreckage of the plane for survivors as the flames subsided, but for almost all it was too late.

"Some passengers burned to death," Transport Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters.

Distraught relatives wept and comforted each other at the airport terminal. Others ran out on to the street in panic as police struggled to keep order in sub-zero temperatures.

"There are body parts everywhere. Many of the bodies are burned," one official told Reuters. Corpses were being kept at a sports hall after the morgue at a medical school was overwhelmed.

Diyarbakir Governor Ahmet Cemil Serhadli said the plane had broken up and debris was spread over a wide area. State television showed the shattered remains of the fuselage and engines still smoking several hours after the impact.

CABIN ENGULFED IN FLAMES

Turkish Airlines general manager Yusuf Bolayirli said the death toll was 75. At least three foreigners were among the dead. The British Foreign Office said two Britons were missing, presumed dead.

Aliye Il, a survivor taken to hospital in Diyarbakir, told Reuters flames engulfed the cabin after the impact.

"As soon as the plane made contact with ground there was an explosion, flames were everywhere. I undid my seat belt and ran outside toward a field and heard a second explosion," she said.

Survivor Celal Tokmak told state television he had suffered cuts to the head and bruises as well as burns on his body.

"There was abnormal fog at the airport. I heard a loud explosion right before we were to land, it felt like my ear exploded... I heard a loud explosion after the crash," he said.

"At first I thought there was a war. Is this an attack? I didn't think it was a crash," he said from hospital.

Airport officials said the pilot did not issue a mayday warning.

The airport in Diyarbakir is a wide expanse of land shared by military and civil air traffic. Civilian flights land more than a kilometer from the main terminal, and passengers are carried to and from their flights on buses.

There has been speculation that Diyarbakir airport, within easy reach of the Iraqi border, could be one of those the United States might ask to use for an attack on Iraq. Air defense missiles were deployed there during the Gulf War (news - web sites) in 1991.

The prime minister, who spoke of his "deep sadness" after the crash, said he would visit Diyarbakir on Thursday.

Asked if the plane had come under a "terrorist attack," Gul said: "According to the initial information, something like that is out of the question... The evidence of (military) commanders is such. There is extreme fog, and the airport is covered in fog. It is very likely it was bad weather conditions."

Anxious relatives awaiting the plane's arrival rushed to hospital in search of news of their family members.

"There are cars and taxis everywhere but they're not letting anyone in," said one witness at the state hospital.

"People outside are yelling for information but nobody is telling them anything. The police are trying to keep order."

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