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‘Tremendous Flames Spread,’ ‘Relieved to Be Alive,’ JAL Passengers Recount Runway Collision

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Flames engulf a Japan Airlines plane on the runway in Haneda Airport on Tuesday.

Flames engulfed a Japan Airlines plane landing at Haneda Airport with 379 people on board Tuesday night after it collided with a Japan Coast Guard aircraft on Runway C.

“The flames leaped up furiously, and the outside of the window was tinted orange,” a passenger who escaped from Flight 516 from New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido said, recalling the terrifying moment.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

‘It’s on fire!’

“Smoke filled the cabin, and passengers were shouting, ‘It’s on fire! It’s on fire!’” a 47-year-old female company employee from Ota Ward, Tokyo, told The Yomiuri Shimbun by telephone.

The woman was on her way back from a ski trip to Niseko, Hokkaido. She was sitting in a seat in the center of the aircraft and watching the landing on a monitor when she suddenly felt a loud thump. Looking out the window, she saw smoke coming from a wing and felt the heat. Before long, the smoke began to fill the cabin.

When the aircraft came to a stop, all the passengers rushed to the front of the cabin, slid down emergency slides and exited the aircraft. Some passengers tried to take their luggage from the overhead bins, but were told by flight attendants not to do so.

“When I got out and saw the burning aircraft, I realized that I was in a situation where I might have not been able to survive,” she recalled.

Her 15-year-old son, a student in junior high school, said: “The outside of the window was tinted orange. The cabin was in chaos, and children were crying.”

Courtesy of a JAL passenger
The inside of the JAL plane where the accident occurred Tuesday on Haneda Airport’s runway.

After exiting the plane, he saw the aircraft burning to the ground.

“We all left our money and keys in the plane, but I’m so glad we survived,” he said.

A 49-year-old company employee from Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, was sitting in the back of the aircraft and heard a thump as if the plane had hit something when landing.

“Please calm down,” a flight attendant shouted, but a smell of burning fuel filled the cabin, agitating the man with the feeling that, “We’ve got to get out of here, or we’ll die.”

Shortly thereafter, he was instructed to evacuate to the front of the plane and exited via a slide. “I wonder what would have happened if we escaped a minute later,” the man said with a trembling voice.