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35 Jet Passengers Hurt in Near Miss

January 31, 2001

TOKYO (AP) _ A Japan Airlines passenger jet maneuvered suddenly at 37,000 feet Wednesday to avoid the path of another airplane, leaving at least 35 people injured, three of them seriously.

The injured were on Flight 907 from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Naha, on the southern Japan island of Okinawa, said Haneda spokeswoman Yuki Kobayashi.

She said the Boeing 747-400, which left for Naha late Wednesday afternoon carrying 411 passengers and 16 crew members, returned safely to Haneda after the incident. The other plane, a Japan Airlines flight from Pusan, South Korea, carrying 237 passengers and 13 crew members, also landed safely.

The injuries were mostly bruises. But three passengers, including a 54-year-old woman with a broken leg, were in serious condition, according to Japan Airlines spokesman Takeshi Suzuki.

Two American teen-agers _ Meggan Wesche, 15, and Allison Ambrose, 14, both from Michigan _ were briefly hospitalized before being released with minor injuries. Hospital official Yumiko Ishida said the girls were on their way to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, where their parents are stationed.

``I express my deepest regrets,″ Japan Airlines Vice President Yasushi Yuasa said.

The pilot, 40-year-old Makoto Watanabe, reported 15 minutes into the flight that a collision warning device had gone off in the cockpit and that he was taking emergency action while descending from an altitude of 37,000 feet.

Yuasa said the alarm is set to go off 25 to 40 seconds before an imminent crash if measures are not taken to change course.

According to the flight plan, the planes’ courses were to cross, but with 2,000 feet between them. Yuasa said it wasn’t known how close they actually came, however.

Yuasa also added that two training pilots were in the cockpit, and said it wasn’t clear if Watanabe had been at the controls before the evasive action was taken.

Passengers said the plane rocked back and forth violently, then dropped suddenly.

Several passengers were taken to ambulances on stretchers, and others had bandages on their heads.

The Transport Ministry was investigating the incident.

Update hourly