Saturday, 27 March 2010

Looking Back - Hundreds Dead In Tenerife Plane Crash

On this day in 1977, at least 560 people died after two jumbo jets collided on a runway in the holiday destination of Tenerife. It is thought to be the world's worst disaster involving aircraft on the ground.
A massive explosion followed by a ball of fire erupted at Los Rodeos airport, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, in dense fog as both airliners were taxiing for take-off at 1800 local time.
The sound of the explosion was heard across the island.
Early reports suggested a Boeing 747, belonging to Dutch national airline KLM, and a Pan American 747 travelling from Los Angeles to Las Palmas were involved in the accident.
No-one survived from the Dutch airliner which was carrying 249 passengers including crew, and was travelling from Schipol airport, Amsterdam.
The Pan-Am plane was a charter flight carrying 16 crew and 378 passengers and there were said to be about 60 survivors, the majority of whom were injured.
Rescue efforts
Eyewitnesses said the airport was covered in dense black smoke following the explosions and emergency services struggled to cope with the enormous numbers of casualties.
Rescue workers plunged into the burning wreckage to pull out survivors.
The army is was expected to move in to help the rescue operation.
Neither airline was originally due to be at the airport but both were diverted from the much bigger Las Palmas on nearby Gran Canaria island after a terrorist bomb blast near the departure lounge.
Experts said it was too early to suggest the cause of the crash but many believed it was in part due to the extra number of flights and pressure on resources at the small airport following several diversions from Las Palmas.
It once again placed security at Spanish airports under the spotlight, hard pressed by package tour flights.
A crash of such magnitude before take-off horrified industry insiders.
Previously the worst accident in aviation history was a Turkish airlines crash near Paris with the loss of 346 lives.
In total 583 people died in the blaze that followed the collision and the incident remains the world's worst aviation accident in history.
The KLM jumbo preparing for take-off is understood to have clipped the Pan-Am plane which was taxiing across the runway.
Ultimately, the crash was blamed on the KLM pilot who had not checked if he was clear for take-off and sped down the foggy runway.
The Pan-Am pilot was deemed to be blameless.
To watch a BBC video report on the crash click the following link: