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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

An Aeromexico aircraft collapses in Durango without leaving fatalities

Por Rory

A commercial aircraft of the Aeromexico Company has collapsed on Tuesday afternoon in Durango, northern Mexico. Shortly before 4:00 pm (local time) and minutes after taking off, the aircraft - an Embraer 190 - fell within the airport's polygon, located about 40 minutes from the city center. On flight AM2431, bound for Mexico City, 99 passengers traveled: 88 adults, nine minors and two infants, plus four crew members. "The most important thing is that we did not have any person who lost his life," state governor José Rosas Aispuro told a news conference. The Secretary of Communications and Transportation, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, has assured that 98 people were treated in different hospitals after the incident.

Alejandro Cardoza, spokesman for the State Civil Protection Agency, has detailed that around 85 people had suffered minor injuries and that the fire that broke out after the collision with the ground has been turned off, according to Reuters. "Many [passengers] managed to leave the plane by their own feet," said Cardoza. The most serious injured is the pilot, Carlos Galván Mayrán, according to the authorities. On Tuesday afternoon, he was under emergency surgery at a local hospital due to a cervical injury. "It is reported serious, but stable," said Rosas Asipuro.

The president has explained that the event occurred when the device was "suddenly" affected by a gust of air when it was taking off from the Guadalupe Victoria International Airport in Durango. The wind caused the plane to descend "abruptly" and make landfall with the left wing. "The two engines of the aircraft were detached," said the president, who added that it will be the civil aeronautical authorities who must give the official version of the event. The Mexican government has created a special commission to investigate the causes of the accident, which will include the participation of the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States and the manufacturer Embraer.

The ship, which was 10 years old, moved more than 300 meters from the runway after falling. "They did not even get to take flight when the plane had already collapsed," said a passenger to the Milenio chain. The aircraft was always horizontal, which made it easier for the crew to deploy the emergency slides. "This allowed the evacuation before the fire of the aircraft," Rosas Aispuro explained. The testimonies of the survivors cited by Mexican television spoke of the wounded. "They went out through a hole in the fuselage and there was a girl with her legs severed," said one person to the aforementioned chain.

A quarter of an hour after the accident, the first ambulances arrived. The vehicles moved the wounded to two private hospitals and four other public, including the military hospital in the region, depending on the severity of their injuries. The Secretary of Health of the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto will be in charge of reporting on the evolution of the passengers admitted. Aeromexico has informed in a press conference that it will transfer the relatives of the wounded to Durango free of charge to accompany them. The city's international airport has restarted operations on Tuesday night after being closed for just over three hours to attend the emergency. The secretary general of the PAN in Durango, Romulo Campuzano, was on board the plane. He has been injured and is in the hospital, relatives have referred to the local press. "The plane failed to get up and was on the side of the airport runway, in a nearby town," says his sister Gina Campuzano, who spoke by telephone with the politician.

The images of an airplane detaching a large column of smoke over the field alerted all of Mexico and made the worst of it wait. According to the airline, the timely action of passengers and crew allowed this to be an accident with no fatalities to regret on a flight with more than 100 people on board. Guillermo Galván, editorial director of Transponder 1200, a specialized aviation media, points out that in order for the "miracle of Durango" to take place, three factors had to come together. To begin with, the fuselage of the aircraft remained in good enough condition so that it could be evacuated. According to the airline, the aircraft had received maintenance in February of this year. The second factor highlighted by Galván was that the crew and the flight attendants correctly followed the emergency procedures. And the third is that the passengers acted correctly and evacuated quickly, despite the moments of chaos and panic that they experienced.

The exact causes of the accident are still under investigation, although the experts pointed to bad weather as the main possibility. The general director of Civil Aeronautics, Luis Gerardo Fonseca, warned however that the work of expertise of the black boxes and recorders of the ship "can take months, depending on the complexity." For the time being, it is known that passengers boarded the plane still without rain, but soon a hail storm broke out accompanied by strong winds. But there are still "many loose ends." In addition to the weather, there could also be technical factors to consider, "explains Guillermo Galván, the editorial director of Transponder 1200.

The also aviator pilot and instructor of human factors in aviation says that, in his experience, aviation authorities do not share the investigation of accidents. But doing it "is necessary," he says, "because the guild must be aware of and learn from them." According to Galván, the Durango accident is the largest in commercial aviation in Mexico since 2008. That year, 16 people died in a crash of a Learjet 45 aircraft in Mexico City. Among the victims was Secretary of the Interior in turn, Juan Camilo Mouriño. And in a statement, Aeromexico said deeply regret the accident on Tuesday. "We are focusing on addressing this situation and will do whatever it takes to help the families of our customers," said the Mexican airline.