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Plane Crash Turns Highway Into Inferno With PM-Mexico-Plane Crash, Bjt

July 31, 1987

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ In the flash of an exploding airplane, the Mexico-Toluca Highway was transformed from a normal rush-hour scene into an inferno of twisted metal and burning cars with people trapped inside.

The difference between living and dying was a matter of luck - a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Alejandro Perez Palma told television crews his house beside the highway shook as if an earthquake had struck when the Boeing 377 crashed Thursday evening, seven minutes after leaving Mexico City’s international airport.

Looking out his kitchen window, Perez said he saw the plane pass under a bridge on the highway, avoid a gas station to the right of the road, bounce off the tops of cars, crash into a restaurant and house and explode.

The bridge, commonly known as the Conafrut bridge, is about 16 feet high and leads from the eight-lane highway to the large, Conafrut food processing plant.

The commercial cargo plane was bound for Miami with 12 people and 18 horses aboard. Officials said 37 people died in the accident and 40 were injured.

Cars crashed into each other and some burst into flames, trapping passengers inside, when the plane came down into bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Many of the bodies were burned so badly they resembled twisted charcoal statues lying on the ground. There was no way to tell whether they were men, women or children.

Along a sidewalk, rescue workers put the remains in plastic bags and lined them up to be taken away. Smoke rose from some of the bags because of the heat of the remains.

Most of the horses died in the crash, but some survived the crash were so badly burned they had to be shot by policemen with pistols.

Pieces of wreckage burned in the streets, and fire hoses snaked across the highway as ambulances and helicopters came and went carrying the dead and dying to nearby hospitals.

Nearby, the manager of the Tras Lomitas Restuarant said 200 patrons heard the plane coming and rushed into the street before it plowed into the facility. One side of the restaurant was reduced to rubble and the roof collapsed on the tables.

Jaime Alvarez said he had stopped at a gasoline station near the restaurant when he saw the plane coming overhead.

″After the crash, there was an explosion that shook many of the passing cars, other cars that were parked and of course the area near the restuarant,″ he said in a halting voice.

The crash site quickly filled with curious onlookers. Police repeatedly asked them to move to the side so emergency vehicles could pass.

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