Bogota, Colombia: Survivors say everything seemed normal as a jetliner with 131 people on board prepared to land in a storm on a Caribbean resort. Suddenly it plunged to earth, killing one person — a death toll so low the island`s governor called it a miracle.
"The pilot informed us that we were going to land in San Andres, we buckled our seat belts, we settled in — and a second later, boom! A big bang," said 25-year-old survivor Alvaro Granados, who was flying with his wife and two children. "When my wife and I stood and looked behind us we saw that the back of the plane was missing."
Authorities say it happened so quickly the pilot didn`t report an emergency to the control tower at Colombia`s San Andres Island.
Experts are trying to figure out why the Aires airline Boeing 737 jetliner hit the ground short of the runway on Monday — and how 130 of the people on board survived as the aircraft skidded on its belly with its fuselage fracturing and its landing gear and at least one engine ripping off.
After the jet ground to a stop, passengers scrambled from their seats or were helped to safety. Authorities said firefighters quickly doused flames that broke out on a wing.
The one fatality was Amar Fernandez de Barreto, 68, and doctors said she may have succumbed to a heart attack. Officials said 119 people in all were taken to hospitals or clinics, most of them for minor injuries.
Manuel Villamizar, director of the emergency operations center in Bogota, told reporters late Monday that he had arranged for six of the badly injured to be flown in from San Andres island, where the crash occurred. The health ministry said a total of 13 injured were being moved to Bogota.
Col. Donald Tascon, deputy director of Colombia`s civil aeronautics agency, speculated the plane`s low altitude as it approached for a landing — perhaps 100 feet (30 meters) just before the crash — may have avoided more severe damage and saved lives.
"It was a miracle and we have to give thanks to God," said San Andres Gov. Pedro Gallardo.