They Steered Burning Plane Off Runway And Into River
Surviving aboard an Iranian Boeing 707 (file pic, below) landing
in Tehran Wednesday night have high praise for the flight deck crew
after the aircraft apparently suffered an engine or brake fire.
Unable to stop the aircraft as it sped down the runway, the
airplane beginning to burn furiously, the crew steered the aging
airliner into a nearby river, dousing the flames.
The Saha Airlines flight with 157 passengers on board was on a
flight to Tehran from Kish, a resort island in the Persian Gulf.
Local media reports say up to 50 of the passengers were killed in
the mishap, although that report wasn't confirmed.
"When the plane touched the ground, the passengers felt that it
was not a normal landing and several attempts were made to reduce
speed but the plane was still rushing," Lu Xinzhong, a Chinese
passenger whose glasses were broken in the accident, told China's
official Xinhua News Agency. "We could just feel the plane was
rushing very fast. The lamps in the cabin were all off, it was dark
and we could see nothing buta shining firelight at the left wing,
and women and children were screaming."
Lu said the flight crew may have tried to take off again as it
sped toward the end of the runway, but was unable to get back into
"If the plane went on, it might have collided with buildings or
something else," he said. "None of us could survive."
Lu told Xinhua the pilots instead chose to steer for a river
near the end of the runway. The plane came to rest in about 15 feet
But if the crew was praised for its heroism in fighting the 707
to a stop and dousing the engine fire, they were villified for what
happened next. Lu said the flight attendants and flight deck crew
rushed out of the aircraft ahead of the passengers.
"Some people who remain unwounded were rescuing others, but the
crew members left. I tried to find them for help, but they
disappeared," he said.
Saha Airlines is owned by the Iranian military, but operates
civilian flights as well.