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Flight of terror
Survivors describe the final moments of Flight SQ006
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 12:48 GMT
Survivors tell of air crash horror
Crash site
Many described their escape from the inferno as miraculous
Survivors from the Singapore Airlines 747 airliner that crashed while taking off in high winds at Taipei airport have been describing how the plane broke into pieces and burst into flames.

Balls of fire flew at us from the front of the plane

Taiwanese survivor

One passenger described a loud bang and then flames "all over the place" as a fireball swept through the cabin.

"Flames shot up right next to me and some fellow not very far from me got, I guess, jet fuel splashed on him, because he just lit up like a torch," said US passenger John Diaz.

The jet bound for Los Angeles was packed with fuel for the long flight across the Pacific.

Survivors describe how the plane shook violently in strong winds
As it slammed back into the runway, the plane's fuselage broke into three pieces, scattering flaming wreckage and passengers still strapped into their seats across the runway.

"It felt like we bumped into something huge," said Louisiana resident Doug Villermin after treatment at Taipei's Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.

"It looked like the front end just fell off. From there, it just started to fall apart.

Walking wounded

From this inferno one of the most remarkable facts is that so many people walked away from the wreckage unscathed, or with only relatively minor injuries.

The jet took off in bad weather
Among them was the aircraft's captain, C.K. Foong, a Malaysian with 11,235 flying hours behind him, and his two first officers.

American Richard Maneth, 39, said he was also able to scramble free from the aircraft unaided.

"I could feel the aircraft shaking during takeoff," he recalled.

"A few seconds after, the aircraft rolled to the left side. Flame was coming from the left side - I could see some people were burned, but I was not sure if they were dead."

Among the other survivors were a newly married Taiwanese couple, heading to Los Angeles for their honeymoon.

'Safe to fly'

They described their terror as the plane, shaking in the strong winds, began to leave the ground and then plunged back onto the tarmac.

The tail section was completely on its side, and it started filling with smoke

Mr H Linke
"In a few seconds, balls of fire flew at us from the front of the plane", they said.

Earlier, as they boarded the plane, they recalled asking the crew if it was safe to fly, and had been told there was no problem.

The couple said they had chosen to fly Singapore Airlines because of its good safety record.

The jet broke into pieces as it slammed back into the runway
Airport and airline officials have subsequently confirmed that weather conditions at the time were within international standards for safe flying.

Another passenger said the plane had shaken and twisted for up to a minute before crashing.

He described a sudden noise before the lights went out and the plane began to rip apart.

Trapped under the tail

Briton Paul Blanchon said he helped the emergency services with the rescue operation.

"At that point we tried to get as many people out as we could out of the section. There were people still strapped in their seats. We tried to get them down," he said.

"There was a gentleman when I got out of the plane who was trapped underneath the tail section of the plane.

"Obviously we could not lift the tail to get the tail off the ground. There was smoke blowing flames from the other and it was engulfing the tail section.

He described the difficulty of trying to communicate with rescue officials and tell them they needed to jack the tail section of the plane up to release the passenger.

"It seemed like forever for the emergency crews to get there, but I'm sure it was only a few minutes. It was a very major disaster," Mr Blanchon said.

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