Plane catches fire at Manila airport, all 8 aboard killed

A plane carrying eight people, including an American and a Canadian, burst into flares Sunday while attempting to take off from Manila’s air terminal on a flight destined for Japan, killing everyone on board, officials said.

The Westwind 24 plane, which was conveying six Filipino crew members and the American and Canadian passengers, was destined for Tokyo on a medical mission when it caught fire near the end of the main runway, Manila air terminal General manager Ed Monreal said.

Firetrucks and rescue team rushed and doused the twin-engine airplane with foam to try to extinguish the flames, he said.

“Unfortunately, there were no survivors,” Monreal told a late-night news conference.

The identity of the victims were not given until their families were informed and said other details about the flight and the passengers were unclear.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said the airplane apparently encountered an undefined “problem which brought about a fire” as it rolled to take off, adding its chief investigator was on the way to the scene.

Video footage shows the airplane engulfed in bright-orange flames in the darkness as firemen scramble to put the fire by spraying chemical foam while siren blare.

Almost three hours after the accident, the bodies of the victims were still inside the wreckage. Airport authorities were waiting for police investigators to analyze the accident scene before retrieving the remains, Monreal said.

The air terminal’s main runway was shut because of the mishap. The air terminal had only minimal staff because of air travel restrictions that are a part of a monthlong lockdown imposed by the government in the main northern Philippine region of Luzon, where Manila, the capital, lies, to battle the coronavirus outbreak, officials said.

A Korean Airlines flight headed for Manila was diverted to Clark International Airport, north of Manila, because of the incident, Monreal stated, including that the main runway would be reopened as soon as the wreckage was removed.

Donaldo Mendoza, the deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the airplane was deemed “airworthy” based on records and its pilots were appropriately certified to fly.

The plane had flown to central Iloilo province Saturday to deliver medical supplies without any incident, Mendoza said.

Mendoza said air terminal tower personnel were stunned to see the plane still rolling on the runway at a point when it ought to have already taken off, but added it remains unclear what trouble the plane encountered.

“They were really alarmed so they already picked up the hotline just in case they can immediately call fire, crash and rescue,” Mendoza said.