Little Rock, AR Jetliner Crash Landing, June 1999
NINE DEAD IN PLANE DISASTER.
SLICK CONDITIONS BLAMED FOR ARKANSAS RUNWAY CRASH.
Little Rock, Ark. (AP) -- An American Airlines flight with 145 people aboard skidded off a rain slickened runway while landing during a storm late last night, broke apart and burst into flames.
Nine people were known to have been killed, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
The deaths in the crash just before midnight yesterday were the first on a major U.S. airline in nearly 1 1/2 years.
Passengers aboard the plane described a scene of terror, with the twin engine Super MD-80 splitting into pieces and catching fire after it slid to the edge of the Arkansas River.
As flames spread through the plane, some passengers squeezed one by one through an emergency exit while others escaped through openings created when the plane's fuselage fractured. They scrambled away from the plane across low lands near the river in darkness, rain and hail.
"We grabbed each other and ran away," said Missy Lewis, traveling with her husband and teen-age daughter.
A source familiar with the investigation said authorities could account for nine deaths in the crash of Flight 1420.
At least 80 people were injured and taken to hospitals. Fourteen people were not immediately accounted for and 51 others did not require hospital treatment.
"The plane was going so fast when we hit the ground we went off the end of the runway," Barrett Baber said at a theater near the airport where survivors were taken to meet with families and friends. "We hit a huge pole, and it split the plane in half. A fire started at the front of the plane and spread back."
Sam Snowden, a district fire chief, said the plane hit a steel tower supporting the runway's approach lights and broke in two. He said firefighters used foam to put out the fire and used chisels to free some passengers from the wreckage.
Airport spokesman Phillip Launius said the plane rotated about 150 degrees as it skidded down the runway, left the pavement and hit the light standard. The plane stopped with its tail facing away from the runway.
"Once the smoke got too thick, there was nothing we could do. People were screaming, 'God, please save us!'" Mr. Baber said.