More than 300 passengers and crew had a miraculous escape yesterday when an Air France plane skidded off a runway and burst into flames.
Flight AF358 from Paris overshot the runway during a severe thunderstorm at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It ended up nose down in a gully only metres from one of Canada’s busiest motorways. All 297 passengers and 12 crew members managed to jump to safety down emergency chutes before the fire took hold. Some witnesses said the plane may have been struck by lightning and a passenger said the power went off shortly before landing. The airport was on red alert because of the storm, and rescue crews were on the scene in less than 50 seconds. Some passengers ran to the nearby road and were picked up by passing motorists. While only 24 needed treatment for minor injuries, all were clearly shaken by their ordeal. “Everybody was jumping on the inside and we scrambled over each other,” one passenger told reporters. One eyewitness said he was surprised anyone escaped alive.. “I went to a gasoline tanker that blew up and I thought I’d seen everything,” he told reporters. “But this was incredible.” The plane, which was filled to capacity, passed an inspection only three weeks ago. It is the first crash involving an Airbus A340 in its 13-year history.Toronto airport is Canada’s largest and busiest. All flights to and from the airport were cancelled or diverted.