One of the 99 passengers who miraculously walked away from a fiery plane crash in Mexico on Wednesday has described the terrifying scenes inside the Aeromexico airliner as it crashed shortly after takeoff.
US webpage engineer Alberto Herrera said he and his fellow passengers had just moments to evacuate the burning wreckage after the aircraft appeared to be downed by hail and winds near the airport in the northern state of Durango.
“You start gaining speed and as soon as you start taking off all of the sudden the plane starts struggling and it’s getting hit with hail,” Mr Herrera told the Associated Press Thursday morning (AEST).
“The higher up we went into the storm the heavier the hail got and more wind got to us,” the 35-year-old was quoted as saying.
“Then all of a sudden the plane starts rocking and it starts seriously, seriously moving around and then hitting the ground.”
Mr Herrera, who was visiting the city of Durango for his cousin’s baptism, said fire around the wings of crashed plane cut off two potential exits, with passengers forced to make their way to the back of the plane.
He said after helping others to leave the aircraft, many survivors walked to the end of the runway to wait for emergency vehicles.
Durango state Governor Jose Aispuro confirmed all the passengers -– including two infants – and four crew made it safely off the plane, but the pilot was severely injured.
No Australians were thought to be on the plane.
Durango state Health Ministry spokesman Fernando Ros said 49 people were hospitalised with injuries, including some with burns from the wreckage.
All were expected to live and the pilot was in a stable condition after surgery.
Mr Aispuro said the plane’s left wing hit the ground, knocking off two engines, before it came to a halt 300 metres from the runway.
Passenger Jackeline Flores told reporters she and her daughter escaped from a hole in the fuselage as the aircraft filled up with smoke and flames.
“I feel blessed and grateful to God,” she said.
Aeromexico said the incident involved an Embraer 190 aircraft with a capacity of 100 passengers on a flight from Durango to the capital Mexico City, 885 kilometres to the south-east.
The Planespotters.net aviation industry website describes the Embraer 190 as being about a decade old.
The site said the Brazilian-made, medium-range jet had been in service with two other airlines before joining the Aeromexico fleet.