Commuter Plane Crashes at Seattle Airport; At Least 18 Injured
SEATTLE (AP) _ A commuter plane carrying 40 people caught fire in flight and crashed into the main terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport late Friday, injuring at least 19, authorities said.
The twin-engine De Havilland 8 had taken off from the airport at 6:45 p.m. and returned immediately with a wing on fire, said Marlys St. Laurent, a spokeswoman for the Port of Seattle, which operates the airport.
Passenger Wilma Swartzwelder of Spokane said she saw the right engine on fire five or 10 minutes after takeoff. ″I heard the boom,″ she said. ″They told us to put our heads down and shield our faces. Everyone was real calm.″
The plane hit baggage carts as it came in, then hit the ground and careened into the terminal, said Douglas Chadd, manager of a restaurant at the airport.
Nineteen people were taken to hospitals, officials said. Twenty-three others were taken to Harborview Medical Center for observation, said spokeswoman Tina Mankowski.
There was no immediate indication that any of the injuries were critical, hospital officials said.
No one on the ground was hurt, said airport Police Chief Ed Ingram. The flight gates where the Horizon Air aircraft hit were empty at the time. Ingram said the plane substantially damaged one or two gates at one concourse.
Nancy Hamilton of Horizon Air said the crash occurred on Flight 2658 from Seattle to Spokane with a capacity load of 37 passengers, plus a pilot, copilot and flight attendant.
The plane crashed into a passenger gate at the main terminal. A wing slammed into a passenger ramp, while the nose poked into the gate area. Fire trucks raced to the scene and sprayed the plane with fire retardant.
Cecilia Feemster of Graham said she was driving near the airport when she saw the plane approach. ″There were flames flying from the wing,″ she said.
″It barely made the hill as it came over the highway. It must have cleared the highway by about 12 feet,″ she said. ″It was scary.″