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9 killed as Turkish jet slams into Dutch field

AUTHORITIES say they have found the flight data recorders of a plane that crashed yesterday in Amsterdam, killing two pilots, an apprentice pilot and six others.

The Turkish Airlines jet plowed into a muddy field near Amsterdam's main airport as it tried to land. In addition to those killed, more than 50 people were injured, six of them critically, as the fuselage shattered into three pieces.

The Boeing 737-800 came down about 3 kilometers short of a runway at Schiphol Airport. The fuselage split in two, close to the cockpit, and the tail broke off. One engine lay almost intact near the wreck. The other was some 200 meters from the plane and heavily damaged, an Associated Press photographer at the scene said.

Flight TK1951 left Istanbul's Ataturk Airport at 8:22am and crashed at 10:31 am.

Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that it was "a miracle" there were not more casualties.

Survivor Huseyin Sumer told Turkish NTV television he crawled to safety out of a crack in the fuselage.

"We were about to land, we could not understand what was happening, some passengers screamed in panic but it happened so fast," Sumer said. He said the crash was over in five to 10 seconds.

The fact that the plane landed in a muddy, plowed field may have contributed to making the accident less deadly by absorbing much of the force of the hard impact, experts said.

It may also have helped avert a fire resulting from ruptured fuel tanks and lines on the underside of the fuselage, which appeared to have suffered very heavy impact damage.

At first, the airline said everyone survived. But at a news conference later, Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer, reported the fatalities.

Bezuijen told reporters there was no immediate word on the cause of the crash.

The Turkish ambassador to the Netherlands, Selahattin Alpar, told Anatolia there were 72 Turks and 32 Dutch people on board. There was no information on the nationality of other passengers.

Candan Karlitekin, the head of the airline's board of directors, told reporters that visibility was good at the time of landing.

"Visibility was clear and around 4,500 meters. Some 500 meters before landing, the plane landed on a field instead of the runway," he said. "We have checked the plane's documents, and there is no problem concerning maintenance."

Turkish Airlines chief Temel Kotil said the captain was very experienced and a former air force pilot.

Turkish officials said the plane was built in 2002 and last underwent maintenance on December 22.

Jim Proulx, a Boeing spokesman, said the company was sending a team to provide technical assistance to Dutch safety officials as they investigate.

He declined to comment on media reports that at least four Boeing employees were on the plane.

Boeing's 737 is the world's best-selling commercial jet, with more than 6,000 orders since the model was launched in 1965.

The 737-800, a recent version of the plane, has a "very good safety record," said Bill Voss, president of the independent Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia.

"It has been involved in a couple of accidents but nothing that relates directly back to the aircraft," he said, adding that the plane was equipped with the state-of-the-art flight data recorders, which should give investigators a rich source of information about the crash.

The Dutch government pledged a swift investigation.


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