August 2, 2005

Air France Airbus crashes in flames at Toronto

By Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - An Air France Airbus burst into flames
after apparently skidding off the runway while landing at
Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Tuesday, aviation
officials said.

Canadian television quoted police as saying that the pilot
and a number of passengers been taken to hospital. Others were
said to have been able to escape from the stricken plane.

A ticket agent in Montreal with Air France said the plane
was its AF358 flight from Paris to Toronto, an Airbus A340 .
"That's all we know," the agent said.

"An Air France plane landing on runway 2-4 went off the end
of the runway in the area of Convair Drive and the 401 area in
Mississauga," Peel police Sgt. Glyn Griffiths said.

Witnesses told Canadian television stations that the plane,
which could carry 252 passengers, had apparently skidded off
the runway after landing amid lightning and rain.

Live TV pictures showed huge clouds of black smoke and
orange flames billowing from the fuselage. Firefighters sprayed
foam over the wreckage to damp down the flames.

The plane was lying off the end of a runway close to a main
traffic artery. Some passengers were said by local television
to have made their way to the highway from where they were
taken to hospital.

Afternoon rush hour traffic quickly clogged up along the
highway, Canada's busiest, as vehicles passed only a few yards
from the crash site.

Witness Corey Marx, who was standing by the highway
watching planes land at the airport, told CNN:

"It was about 4 o'clock. It was getting really dark. All of
a sudden lightning was happening. A lot of rain was coming
down. I didn't see the size of the plane but it was an Air
France plane.

"It came in on the runway, everything looked good. Sounded
good. Hit the runway nice and all of a sudden we heard its
engines backing up."

Marx said rescue workers got to the plane within about 40
or 50 seconds.

Air France's Web site showed that flight 358 left Charles
de Gaulle airport in Paris and was due to arrive at Pearson's
terminal 3 on Tuesday afternoon.

The airline's A340s are generally configured for 252
passenger seats, but there was no immediate information about
how many passengers were on the plane.

Toronto airport has been closed to other traffic, with
planes diverted to Ottawa and other nearby airports