T A I P E I, Taiwan, Nov. 1 -- A deadly wall of flame hurtled down the aisle of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 when it crashed during takeoff Tuesday at Taipei airport, according to a survivor.
“The left wing seemed to hit something then it was just a big roller coaster ride,” British Steven Courtney, 45, was reported as saying by Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “A wall of flame came down the aisle. We tried to get out of one of the exits at ground level but it was jammed.”
His account seems to confirm the latest theory: that the jetliner hit something, perhaps a tire, on the runway as it was taking off. Other survivors and the flight commander also said the plane hit something, setting off the deadly chain of events.
Seventy-nine people were killed and 85 injured.
The death toll could rise since many of the injured suffered serious burns after the airliner burst into flames. One foreign passenger burned over 100 percent of the body had little hope for survival, a doctor at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital said.
“There were flames everywhere. People couldn’t breathe. Finally we managed to get out through an exit hatch at the front. It seemed to take a long time to get out,” Courtney said.
The Los Angeles-bound flight, SQ 006, was carrying 179 people, including 20 crew, when it crashed, broke into three parts and burst into flames at 11:18 p.m.
“I felt two hits and we twisted around twice,” said Tonya Joy, 37, of New Zealand. “I jumped out of the top and landed on the ground, so the doctors think there is something wrong with my spine. The weather was just awful. Flames came so fast on both sides of the plane.”
“It felt like we bumped into something huge,” said survivor DougVillermin, 33, of New Iberia, La., standing outside ahospital after the crash, wrapped in a tunic and smoking a cigarette. John Diaz of Santa Monica, Calif., was one of the lucky ones who survived the crash. “We got out and just started running and then the whole thing blew up,” he said.