MANILA

Plane catches fire at NAIA, killing all 8 aboard

MANILA (Updated) -- A plane carrying eight people, including an American and a Canadian, burst into flames Sunday, March 29, while attempting to take off from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on a flight bound for Japan, killing all those on board, officials said.

The Westwind 24 plane, which was carrying six Filipino crew members and the American and Canadian passengers, was bound for Tokyo on a medical mission when it caught fire near the end of the main runway, Manila airport general manager Ed Monreal said.

Fire trucks and rescue personnel rushed and doused the twin-engine aircraft with foam to try to extinguish the flames, he said.

"Unfortunately, there were no survivors," Monreal told a late-night news conference.

He declined to identify the victims until their families were informed and said other details about the flight and the passengers were unclear.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said the aircraft apparently encountered an unspecified “problem which resulted in a fire” as it rolled to take off, adding its chief investigator was on the way to the scene.

Video footage shows the aircraft engulfed in bright-orange flames in the darkness as firefighters scramble to put out the fire by spraying chemical foam while sirens blare.

Nearly three hours after the accident, the bodies of the victims were still inside the wreckage. Airport authorities were waiting for police investigators to examine the crash scene before retrieving the remains, Monreal said.

The airport's main runway was closed due to the accident. The airport had only minimal staff due to air travel restrictions that are part of a month-long lockdown imposed by the government in the main northern Philippine region of Luzon, where Manila, the capital, lies, to fight the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

A Korean Airlines flight bound for Manila was diverted to Clark International Airport, north of Manila, due to the incident, Monreal said, adding that the main runway would be reopened as soon as the wreckage was removed.

Donaldo Mendoza, the deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the aircraft was deemed “airworthy” based on records and its pilots were properly certified to fly.

The plane had flown to central Iloilo province Saturday to deliver medical supplies without any incident, Mendoza said.

Mendoza said airport tower personnel were horrified to see the plane still rolling on the runway at a point when it should have already taken off, but added it remains unclear what trouble the plane encountered.

“They were really alarmed so they already picked up the hotline just in case, whatever happens, they can immediately call fire, crash and rescue,” Mendoza said. (AP)


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