August 2, 2005

All passengers survive Airbus Canada crash

By Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - An Air France Airbus burst into flames
after overshooting the runway while landing at Toronto's
Pearson International Airport in a storm on Tuesday, but all
309 passengers and crew survived.

Steve Shaw of the Greater Toronto Airport Authority said
there were "no known fatalities" among the 297 passengers and
12 crew aboard the packed plane. All aboard were evacuated
before the fire took hold, he said.

Witnesses said the plane may have been hit by lightning as
it came into land and crashed into a gully. Officials said the
airport had been under a "red alert" because of the danger of

Survivors said they "ran like crazy" from the wreckage.

"We were running really fast to get out of there," Olivier
Dubos said on CNN.

Canadian television quoted police as saying that the pilot
and a number of passengers been taken to hospital. A Canadian
reporter said two busloads of passengers were taken into
downtown Toronto from the crash site. CBC Radio said 14 people
had been treated for minor injuries

An Air France ticket agent said the plane was its AF358
flight from Paris to Toronto, an Airbus A340 .

"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,
had apparently skidded off the runway after landing amid
lightning and rain.

Debbi Wilkes, who was driving in a car on a highway
alongside the airport, said it was "pouring rain" and "pelting
with hail" at the time.

"We saw a bolt of lightning come down and hit something,"
she said.

Huge clouds of black smoke and orange flames billowed 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.

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