Covington, KY Canadian Airliner Emergency Landing, June 1983
23 PASSENGERS PERISH ABOARD FIERY DC-9
Cincinnati (AP) -- A pilot managed to land his burning Air Canada DC-9 despite blinding smoke in the cockpit, but 23 of the 46 people aboard died in the fire within a minute after the plane touched down, authorities said today.
Air Canada officials said they didn't know what started the fire or whether the victims died while the plane was still in the air or after it landed in flames at Greater Cincinnati International Airport.
Eighteen of the 46 people aboard the DC9 were injured. There were 41 passengers and five crew members. Sixteen of the injured remained hospitalized today at two Kentucky hospitals, two in fair condition and 14 in guarded condition.
The fire which some survivors said appeared to have started in a lavatory, charred the plane's interior and burned the fuselage. Rescue workers found bodies strapped in seats and in the aisles, some burned beyond recognition.
But survivors said there was no panic, no screaming.
"There was no panic. There was absolutely nothing. Nobody screamed or yelled. There were no cries. It was just dead calm," said AUDREY RUTTAN, 39, of Midland, Ont.
TED MORRIS, spokesman for Air Canada, told an airport news conference today that airline officials knew neither where nor how the fire began. He also said he didn't know at what point the passengers died, adding, "That's what the coroner is going to have to tell us."
MORRIS said the plane had been equipped withing the past year with "the most modern of interiors" and said Air Canada has never had a fire on one of its jetliners before.
"They're unusual, but they do occur. In a boat, you can get off and swim. But if there's a fire in an aircraft, you have to land in a hurry," MORRIS said.
The pilot radioed air controllers with a report of the fire at 7:06 p.m. Thursday as the plane was flying from Dallas-Fort Worth to Toronto, Canada. Despite being blinded by smoke, he made an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati International Airport 13 minutes later.
Among the dead was television manufacturer CURTIS MATHES, JR., a Canadian resident returning home from a business trip.
Some survivors said the fire appeared to have started in the rear of the aircraft.
MS. RUTTAN, who was being treated at St. Elizabeth Hospital, told ABC-TV that, "You could smell the smoke, you could see it coming from the back towards the front of the plane. It was very, very evident."
She said that once the plane landed, smoke filled the cabin and she escaped onto a wing.
"I went out on the wing, out one of the exits. You couldn't see where you were going -- you could feel air," she said.