Air Canada crash: Airline accused over 'hard landing' that saw Airbus A320 written off

'It was the closest I've ever come to death,' says one passenger who accuses the airline of 'political manoeuvring'

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The Independent US

Air accident investigators say 133 passengers had a “lucky” escape after an Air Canada plane crash-landed landed short of a runway, was ripped apart by a bank of antennas and came skidding to a halt on its belly.

The Airbus A320 was completely written off late on Saturday night after the impact sheared off its landing gear, an engine and its nose cone – yet only 25 people were injured, all but one of whom have since been released from hospital.

Air Canada’s executives used the technical term “hard landing” to describe the incident during a press conference on Sunday – but passenger Mike Magnus described that as “obvious political manoeuvring”.

“This was not a hard landing. This was an actual crash,” said the 60-year-old businessman who was sitting in the front row.

“There is no doubt in my mind. It was the closest I’ve ever come to death.”

Mike Cunningham, a regional manager for Canada's Transport Safety Board, said initial reports showed that Flight AC624 came down some 300 metres short of the runway at Halifax's Stanfield International Airport in stormy conditions.

“They touched down 1,100 feet short of the runway so I'd say they're pretty lucky,” he said.

Mr Cunningham said the plane hit an antenna array, shearing the main landing gear off before sliding on its belly on to the runway for another 1,100 feet before coming to a stop. There was significant damage to the plane and he could not rule out weather as a factor, he said.

He also said he believes a power line was severed, which led to a loss of power at the airport.

“All of us at Air Canada are greatly relieved that there have been no critical injuries as a result of this incident,” airline chief operating officer Klaus Goersch said.

Airport spokesman Peter Spurway praised the quick-thinking of the crew and passengers, who evacuated the plane in less than a minute.

“We just kicked the doors out and jumped on to the wing and then ran because we just wanted to get away from the airplane in case of explosions or anything,” said Dominic Stettler, a father of three.

Additional reporting by agencies

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