A passenger plane flying into Istanbul has crashed after skidding off a runway, killing three people and injuring at least 179 others.
The aircraft, operated by low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines, was travelling from Izmir when it skidded off the runway at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen airport on Wednesday, breaking into three pieces.
According to Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya, the plane – identified as flight PC2193 – was carrying 183 Turkish nationals, including 175 passengers, two children and six crew members.
In closed-circuit television footage obtained by VOA News, the aircraft can be seen making a hard landing at the airport before skidding around 160 feet and falling in a ditch. Yerlikaya said in separate reports the jet fell around 100 feet below the runway.
At least 179 people have been confirmed as injured and sent to hospitals as a result of the accident. Kerem Gun, a chief physician at one of the hospitals treating victims, told broadcaster NTV most of the injured had broken noses and head trauma.
Turkish news reports said the two pilots of flight PC2193 were seriously injured.
“This could have been a bigger accident, we are happy it wasn’t bigger,” Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a press conference Wednesday, adding that aside from one or two people, “The rest are only injured lightly.”
In a press statement, Pegasus Airlines said the plane was flying from Izmir, a city in western Turkey, and described the accident as “a runway excursion after landing”. A Pegasus Airlines spokeswoman confirmed the incident to Travel Weekly but did not provide further details.
“Pegasus Airlines shares in the profound sorrow of all the people affected by this tragic accident,” the airline said in a separate press statement.
“Above all, we would like to express our profound sympathy and heartfelt condolences to those families and friends who have lost loved ones and extend our thoughts to them at this difficult time.
“Our injured passengers continue to be treated in hospital and we wish them all a swift recovery.”
The airport was shut down after the incident, which occurred at around 6:30pm (local time) and flights were being diverted to Istanbul’s main airport.
Experts have suggested heavy rain played a part in the accident, with weather considered a factor. In audio released by NTV, airport officials can be heard warning pilots about strong winds.
“According to information we obtained, a hard landing happened, and as it couldn’t slow down, it left the runway,” Turkey’s transportation minister, Mehmet Cahit Turhan, told CNN Turk.
“A significant number of passengers left the plane on their own, and the evacuation work for the ones inside was still ongoing,” he said.
Prosecutors in the capital city of Turkey Ankara have launched an investigation into the incident.
In 2018, a Pegasus Airlines passenger jet in the northeast coastal city of Trabzon skidded off a runway, landing metres from the Black Sea. No passengers or crew members were injured in the incident, which left the aircraft hanging on an angle, on a steep slope over the sea.
Featured image: Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737 (iStock.com/Senohrabek)