It was very nearly a miracle on the Dubai International Airport tarmac. Consider an accident that left none of the people involved dead save for a few scrapes and scratches, all evacuated safely from the accident site before it got too dangerous. That sounds good so far. Then the scene of the accident did get dangerous, and one of the responding rescuers is killed.
That was how the emergency landing of an Emirates flight on Dubai International Airport Tuesday August 3 played out from beginning to end, according to a statement by Emirates on their Facebook page. The Guardian reports that despite the Boeing 777 partially collapsing on its side upon the runway, only 13 of the 282 passengers suffered injuries from the jolting impact. They were evacuated off the incapacitated aircraft by the flight’s 18 crewmembers, and just in time before flames roared up and consumed a majority of the fuselage.
Emirates flight EK521 was travelling from Thiruvananthapuram, India to Dubai and expected to land just after noon local time. While details remain sketchy, there have been reports on Al-Arabiya of passengers inhaling smoke in the cabin just before landing, and the pilots – an Emirati and an Australian with a combined flight time of over 7,000 hours – had radioed to abort their initial landing approach and try to circle around for another pass, only for the 777 to touch down on the tarmac anyway.
The plane’s collapse on its side has been attributed by CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest to a collapsing front landing gear, although he also noted possible problems with the right wing engine. The attendants then moved quickly to evacuate the passengers through all emergency exits via inflatable slides. All aboard were able to escape just as the plane caught fire almost everywhere.
But on this tale of triumphant survival there was also a singular personal tragedy. On a public press conference before media, Emirates airline’s CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum related how a firefighter stationed at the airport, Jassim Essa Al-Baloushi, was killed by the flames erupting from the downed aircraft. He however died fighting the blaze and “saving the lives of others”, in Sheikh Maktoum’s words. UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum then tweeted about mourning Al-Baloushi’s death, but that Emiratis were “proud of our youth and their sacrifices while performing their duties in protecting lives and saving people."
Al-Baloushi’s fellow airport emergency responders were able to put out the fire two hours after the crash according to Dubai media, leaving behind a half-burned hulk. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum stated that the accident was not security-related.
Takeoffs and landings at Dubai International were briefly halted by the emergency, but were resumed at 7 PM that same night.
Photo Credit to www.thenational.ae