Investigators are looking into what caused a packed Mexican airliner to crash shortly after take-off Tuesday. Aeroméxico Flight 2431 was carrying 99 passengers and four crew members when it went down in northern Mexico and burst into flames. Remarkably, no one was killed.
Officials say at least 80 passengers were injured and 49 were hospitalized, reports CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave. Two people, including the pilot, are in serious but stable condition. The airline’s CEO says the plane was 10 years old, "perfectly maintained" and was last serviced back in February.
When emergency crews arrived on scene, the Embraer 190 was largely intact, but on fire, with some passengers still inside. The head of Mexico’s civil aviation agency says it could take months to pinpoint the actual cause of the crash.
The flight was headed from Mexico’s northern state of Durango to Mexico City. Durango’s governor says the plane made it off the ground, but was hit by a gust of wind as it left the runway causing the plane to land abruptly on its left wing, forcing the engines to catch on fire just a few hundred yards from takeoff.
There was a strong explosion that hit the plane, recalled passenger Lorenzo Nunez. He said he didn’t know if it was a lightning bolt or a mechanical problem and that they had just taken off when the plane fell.
Another passenger described escaping the wreckage with her son. She said she was lucky enough to turn around and there was a hole somewhere in the plane. She unbuckled her son’s seatbelt and got out that way
Other passengers described people being trapped at the back of the smoke-filled plane and helping others make it out of the flames.
"It was a miracle that no one so far has fatally been injured," retired airline captain Ross Aimer said. "I would say this would have been a 1 in 100 chance that we had no fatalities."
The maker of the plane, Embraer, says it sent a team of technicians to the scene of the crash to support the investigation. The U.S. Embassy says they do not have confirmation on whether any Americans were on the plane. Durango’s governor says some survivors who got out of the plane on their own power even wandered back to the airport looking for their loved ones.