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Pilots on board Turkish Airlines jet killed in Schiphol crash


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The pilots of a Turkish Airlines jet that crashed at Amsterdam airport today were among nine people killed in the disaster, it has emerged.


At least 84 passengers were injured, six of them critically and 25 severely, when the Boeing 737-800 smashed into a ploughed field three miles short of Schiphol airport.


"There are still three crew members in the cabin. I'm sorry to say that they are dead," said one of the investigators, at a press conference at Schiphol.


"We are leaving them there because we have to investigate the cockpit before we take the cockpit apart."


The pilots may have been killed by the nose wheel being forced up into the cockpit during the very hard landing. The nose wheel normally shears off in a crash, unless the vertical speed is so great that it is forced upwards.


Passengers today told of the panic that broke out as Flight TK1951 from Istanbul apparently stalled on approach to Schiphol.


"All of a sudden the back end of the plane dropped and then the plane crashed down on its front end and broke into three pieces," a male passenger told Dutch television.


"I was OK because I was in the middle, it was the people towards the tail and at the front who couldn't get out. I heard screaming.


"Near the tail there was a man with his feet stuck, and people were kicking him to try to get his feet out."


Another passenger said: "For the first ten seconds it was silent, and after that we heard crying and screaming. There was a lot of panic and a lot of wounded people."


Witnesses on the ground spoke of their surprise as, within seconds of the jet skidding to rest, 10 or 15 people who had been able to free themselves quickly from their seats stepped out into the mud.


"Almost immediately 15 people walked out," marvelled Henk Dijkshoorn.


Huseyin Sumer told private Turkish NTV television that he had crawled to safety out of a crack in the fuselage.


“We were about to land, we could not understand what was happening, some passengers screamed in panic but it happened so fast,” Mr Sumer said. He said the crash was over in five to ten seconds.


A British mother and her two daughters were been rescued from the wreckage, The Times can reveal.


Susan Lord and her daughters, Sofia and Lisa, who were freed after the aircraft broke up near the airport today, are not thougt to have suffered any injuries in the crash.


Ms Lord was believed to be using her maiden name but travelling with her Turkish husband, Jakavus Labeij.


The Foreign & Commonwealth Office said that it appeared that no Britons were among the dead or injured.


Robbert Smit said that some of the survivors who climbed free ran away, while others went back in to help. Inside the aircraft, several people were trapped, some of them badly hurt.


One of the first rescuers on the scene was John Ansgar, who was driving past towards Haarlem when he saw the aircraft's nose drop and the aircraft fall from the sky.


"Fourteen people got out of the plane almost straight away. When I got inside all the oxygen masks were hanging down. There were people stuck in the back and we just couldn't help them," said Mr Ansgar. "There weren't enough stretchers for everybody."


Five hours after the aircraft hit at 0931GMT the emergency services had managed to remove all the wounded from the fuselage, but the bodies of some of the dead remained at the front end of the plane.


Video from the scene showed that the craft landed in a ploughed field a couple of hundred yards outside the airport perimeter. Traffic roared past only tens of metres away. Emergency services treated passengers in the mud at the scene.


Tractors were used to ferry the wounded away, the only vehicles able to cope with the sticky mud of the ploughed field, which was saturated after days of heavy rain.


That the aircraft crash-landed in a muddy, ploughed field may have contributed to making the accident less deadly by absorbing the force of the impact, experts said. It may also have helped to dampen sparks and absorb aviation fuel leaking from ruptured tanks and lines on the underside of the fuselage, which appeared to have suffered very heavy impact damage.


One analyst said that the engines appeared not to have been turning at the time of impact. There were other suggestions that the aircraft somehow stalled. A plane stalls when the wings lose lift due to slow airspeed or a sudden manoeuvre.


Injured survivors were being transported to Spaarne hospital in Haarlem and other nearby clinics, while other survivors were taken to a sports hall to be reunited with relatives, who had been taken from the arrivals lounge by bus, shocked and weeping.


The Turkish Ambassador to the Netherlands, Selahattin Alpar, told the Anatolia news agency there were 72 Turks and 32 Dutch people on board. An official said that at least four of the remaining passengers were Americans who worked for Boeing, the aircraft's manufacturer.


Turkey was said to be providing a plane to fly relatives from Istanbul to the scene.


Earlier, amid conflicting reports, it seemed that the 127 passengers, including a baby, and seven crew on board may all have survived, as both the Turkish Transport Minister and the chief executive of the airline proclaimed that all were safe.


"The good news is that there was no loss of life in the accident" said Binali Yildirim, the Transport Minister. As news of the deaths emerged, however, he said that it was a miracle that no more had been killed.


All flights in and out of Schiphol, the fifth busiest airport in Europe, were suspended for a few hours, though traffic was this afternoon said to be returning to normal. The A9 motorway that runs near the crash scene was also closed.


The 737-800 is a new aircraft, the re-engineered and redesigned next generation of the original 737 which has for several decades been renowned as the workhorse of the skies.


“We have checked the plane’s documents and there is no problem concerning maintenance,” said Candan Karlitekin, the head of the airline’s board of directors. Visibility had been good at the time of landing, he said.


Temel Kotil, the chief executive of Turkish Airlines, said that Hasan Tahsin, a former air force pilot who was captaining the crash plane, was very experienced.


Today's accident is the most catastrophic at Schiphol since October 1992 when an El Al Boeing cargo aircraft crashed into an apartment building in the Bijlmer neighbourhood of Amsterdam. Forty-three people were killed but health agencies believe that the aircraft had been carrying radioactive cargo.


In April 1994 a Saab 340B on a KLM Cityhopper flight from Cardiff crashed in a ploughed field near Schiphol, cartwheeling as its wing tip dug into the ground and killing three people on board, including the pilot.


Turkish Airlines is said to operate a modern fleet of aircraft with well-trained staff, but its record is not unblemished. In January 2003, a Turkish Airlines flight crashed while attempting to land on a fog-covered runway in the city of Diyarbakir, killing 75 people. Five people survived with injuries.







Analysis by Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent: The front of the fuselage broke off just in front of the wingbox, which is the strongest part of the aircraft's structure. Anyone sitting in the window seats on either side of the fuselage at the fracture point was probably either killed or seriously injured as metal panels buckled inwards. Part of the reason the front section broke off is likely to be because the main landing gear, located just behind the fracture point, hit the ground very hard




The tail has broken off close to the final seat row. The tail has twisted 90 degrees and is pointing upwards, suggesting this area bore the brunt of the impact, possibly as the pilots tried to recover the aircraft by climbing. Cabin crew were probably sitting in their seats near the toilet at the rear of the plane and would have come to a rest facing upwards. They may have struggled to escape. The emergency exit door is only partially open, suggesting anyone who escaped this section probably climbed over the broken area of fuselage




The most intact section of the aircraft contains the middle 25 or so rows. The area furthest from the two fuselage breaks is over the wings. A very strong steel box, known as the wing box, is built into the fuselage to hold the wings firmly in place. The wings contain fuel tanks and are very heavy. The safest place to sit in a modern airliner is in, or near to, the emergency exit rows over the wings. This is for two reasons: the fuselage is likely to remain intact and, if there is a fire, you will be among the first to escape




The engines are designed to break off in a crash to prevent fuel from being ignited. That is why this engine is some distance away from the fuselage

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