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At least 158 people are dead in the city of Mangalore in the Southern state of Karnataka, India, after a plane crash early Saturday. The plane landed at the airport safely but overshot the runway.
The Air Indian Express, a Boeing 737-800, carrying 166 passengers and crew, landed on a “table top” runway, with a valley at the end, at Bajpe Airport. The airport, which was built in 2006, is difficult to land at and requires additional training according to experts.
A table top landing creates an optical illusion for the pilot as the visual reference changes during the approach, an unnamed international airline pilot explained in The Hindu. It "requires the pilot to guard against taking the aircraft either too high or low on the approach,” he said.
Zlatko Glusica, captain of the airplane who died in the crash with the rest of the crew, overshot his landing on the 2.6 kilometer long runway and couldn't stop before he ran out of room. The plane plunged down 500 meters into a ravine, broke in two, and caught on fire.
“The flight touched the ground, followed by a big bang, the plane became unbalanced and went out of the runaway," one of the only eight survivors, 24 year-old Joel Pratap D'Souza told the Daily Telegraph.
"The pilot lost control of the plane…and it halted in the forest. Within seconds the cabin filled with smoke and the plane broke apart. We saw plumes of fire coming from the plane and a loud explosion," he said.
Another survivor, Ummer Farook Mohammed, told the Daily Telegraph he and others escaped through a gap in the wreckage. “One side of the plane caught fire and there was a crack in the plane. I along with six other people escaped from the plane, my hand and face were burnt while fleeing from the gap.”
The black box containing the flight recording was found during an investigation, and the exact causes of the crash are underway.
Nearby residents rushed to the crash site as soon as they realized what happened and saw the smoke. They brought survivors to a nearby hospital by rickshaw but faced 'shocking' scenes pulling the bodies from the wreckage as most of the bodies were “burnt beyond recognition," India's aviation minister, Praful Patel, told reporters.