Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK
Plane crash Britons due home
Many passengers thought they were going to die
Exhausted British tourists are due to fly back home, after an 'amazing' escape when their plane crash-landed in a heavy storm.
Britannia Airways was operating a special flight on Thursday to bring back to the UK any traumatised passengers who no longer wished to continue their holiday.
Passengers spoke of screaming and panic on board as the plane broke up. Many believed they were going to die.
Retired steel worker David Dennis, 72, from Swansea, said: "It was amazing that no one was killed.
"It was like someone throwing a pebble across a lake. We just skimmed along the runway."
Spanish authorities criticised
But passengers did criticise the Spanish authorities for the way they dealt with the aftermath of the accident.
Some said they were left to make their own way to the airport terminal building in torrential rain, others said there seemed to be confusion in the airport terminal over where the plane had landed.
They said emergency assistance was not really needed as the majority of passengers had only slight injuries.
Investigation under way
An investigation is under way into the crash, which left the plane broken in three pieces by the side of the runway.
The plane appeared to go out of control as it touched down just before midnight.
A Gerona airport spokesman said the drama happened at the height of a thunderstorm and on the pilot's second attempt at landing.
Initial reports suggested heavy rains prevented the pilot from bringing the plane to a stop on the runway and forced him to skid off on to the surrounding grass area.
But the spokesman, who said the passengers had "a lucky escape", also suggested the pilot may have been momentarily blinded by lightning.
Britannia Airways has confirmed the pilot of the aircraft was 55-year-old Brendan Nolan.
She said: "The investigation into what occurred is still being carried out. We will not be making any more statements until that inquiry is completed."
British air investigators are flying to Spain to take part in the probe into the incident.
Tour operator Thomson Holidays has also sent out a team of reps and counsellors to help the passengers.
The passengers were put up in and around Gerona on Wednesday night and were expected to arrive back in Cardiff on Thursday at about 6pm on Thursday.