A U.S. passenger aboard a flight that crashed on takeoff in northern Mexico said that a strong burst of wind and hail hit the Aeromexico jetliner, apparently knocking it back to the ground, where there were only moments to evacuate before it burned.
Alberto Herrera, a 35-year-old webpage engineer from Chicago, described the terrifying moments when the plane briefly became airborne before smacking belly-down onto a field beyond the edge of the runway.
“You start gaining speed and as soon as you start taking off all of the sudden the plane starts struggling and it’s getting hit with hail,” said Herrera, who was visiting the city of Durango for the baptism of his cousin’s baby.
“The higher up we went into the storm the heavier the hail got and more wind got to us,” he recounted from his hotel room. “Then all of a sudden the plane starts rocking and it starts seriously, seriously moving around and then hitting the ground.”
Local media outlets reported that passengers were seen walking to a nearby road for help.
Corporaciones de emergencia y seguridad se encuentran en el km17 de la autopista Durango – Torreón atendiendo accidente de la aeronave, cede el paso a los vehículos de emergencia ? pic.twitter.com/XR75WuMlai
— PROTECCIÓN CIVIL DGO (@CEPCDurango) July 31, 2018
Durango state governor José Aispuro said that there were no deaths.
“It is confirmed that there were no deaths during the accident of flight # AM2431. At present, part of the Cabinet, led by the Coordinator @ RosarioCastroL, is in charge of caring for the injured and cooperating with the airport authorities in dealing with this event,” he said on Twitter in Spanish.
“I have instructed the @ SEDENAmx , @ PcSegob and @ SCT_mx to collaborate in the care of the aerial accident that occurred in Durango. I hope that the crew and all passengers are well,” wrote Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Twitter in Spanish.
Officials said that all 99 passengers and four crew members survived. The pilot of the plane was seriously injured.
According to Reuters, about 85 people were injured in the crash.
“A little girl who left the plane was crying because her legs were burned,” said a Yaquelin Flores, who said she was Mexican but lived in Bogota, Colombia, and was on the plane, Reuters reported. “I feel blessed and grateful to God,” she said.
“We undid our seatbelts and I told my daughter that we had to go out there and we jumped. There were children leaving the plane and crying . . . We managed to get out through the hole but there were flames. I was afraid of being burned but we jumped without thinking or taking anything with us,” Flores said, according to Mexico News Daily.
Flores said that paramedics took about 20 minutes to get to the crash site. She lost all of her personal belongings in the crash.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.