Mexico plane hit sudden, violent storm before crash

DURANGO, Mexico (AP) — It began with a strong burst of wind and pounding hail that pummeled the Aeromexico jetliner minutes after takeoff in northern Mexico then sent it smashing belly-down onto a field near the runway.

Frightened passengers scrambled to flee as flames and blinding black smoke erupted around them. Miraculously, all 103 on board survived the crash Tuesday.

Wednesday, passengers described the terrifying sequence of events.

“It’s not every day you kind of fall from the sky and live to tell about it,” said Alberto Herrera, a 35-year-old webpage engineer from Chicago.

Jose Luis Corral, a 52-year-old business owner from Portland, Oregon, agreed.

“It’s a good thing we’re all alive,” said Corral, who still wore a neck brace from injuries he suffered in the crash.

“It’s so fast, terrifying to see all the people screaming,” added Corral, who was one of four people who helped the plane’s badly injured pilot escape the blaze. The pilot suffered a serious neck injury and remains hospitalized. Forty-eight others also were injured, and 22 remained hospitalized Wednesday.

Herrera said the skies were sunny as passengers boarded the flight from Durango to Mexico City Tuesday afternoon and the violent storm seemed to come from nowhere.

“When we were sitting on the plane there was a little drizzle, but nothing to worry about. It was just a little light rain, super light, like barely hitting the windows,” Herrera said.

But another passenger Ramin Parsa, 32, of Los Angeles, said the weather was ominous even before takeoff.

“The airplane actually was shaking before we even moved so I knew it was dangerous weather,” he said. “I thought that we were going to have a delay until the weather clears up, but the pilot began to move so I thought that he knows what he is doing.”

“I think it was a mistake by the pilot. He should not have taken off,” Parsa said.

Durango state Gov. Jose Aispuro said it was too soon to speculate on the cause of the crash. Mechanical failure and human error could be factors, but certainly the weather wasn’t favorable.