Four dead after Spanish plane crash-lands

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The Independent Online

An airliner crash-landed on its approach to Malaga airport on the Costa del Sol on Wednesday, killing four of the 47 people on board, including the pilot, and injuring 26.

The Spanish twin-turboprop plane ploughed across the old main road linking Malaga to Torremolinos 200 yards short of the runway, then broke in two, with its tail stuck in a ditch. The passengers who died, two Spaniards from Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, and a French national, were sitting in a row near the front and were crushed on impact.

The pilot, Mariano Ruano, 55, the co-pilot and the air hostess were taken into intensive care at a hospital in Malaga, where Mr Ruano died. Six passengers remained seriously ill last night.

The plane was almost at the end of its regular route to Malaga from Melilla. Passengers said they were not warned of the crash-landing, although the pilot had alerted the air traffic control tower that he was attempting an emergency landing.

One passenger, Francisco Javier Oliva, said the plane "flew for four or five minutes with the engine cut out before it crash-landed". Mr Oliva said he realised something was wrong when the plane "kept bouncing up and down" as it came in to land, nose first. Another survivor, spattered with blood, said: "I was reading and then there was a huge bang and then chaos." Some passengers said that the left propeller appeared not to be turning as the plane approached the airport.

Some people were trapped for up to half an hour. Others were able to break windows or force open a door and clamber out unaided. The smell of fuel prompted fears that a fire would engulf those trapped. Firefighters hosed down the wreckage as the injured were helped into ambulances.

Malaga airport, which serves resorts along the southern Spanish coast, remained open.The carrier, Binter Mediterraneo, said the cause of the crash was unknown.The Spanish authorities said they had appointed investigators.

Residents of Melilla have complained for years that the aircraft carrying them to mainland Spain were old and frequently broke down. The plane that crashed on Wednesday was nearly 11 years old and was due to be withdrawn this year.