TOKYO (Agencies): A Japan Airlines jet burst into flames on a runway at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Tuesday after a collision on the ground with a Japan Coast Guard plane.
JAL said that 367 passengers and 12 crew members were on board the plane, an Airbus A350, but that they were all able to evacuate safely without injuries. Five of the six people on the coast guard plane died, with the captain sustaining severe injuries, NHK reported.
The JAL plane was arriving from New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, NHK reported, adding that the collision occurred after the JAL plane landed on runway C.
The coast guard aircraft was on a mission to fly to a base in Niigata Prefecture carrying supplies to support the area affected by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit central Japan on Monday. The coast guard aircraft was moving on the runway when it collided with the JAL plane.
The coast guard said the captain of its plane reported to the coast guard around 5:55 p.m. that the aircraft had “exploded” on the Haneda runway and that he had managed to escape.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said it was “very unfortunate” that the five coast guard members died in the crash, offering his sincere condolences and saying that he has great respect for their strong sense of duty to help victims of the earthquake.
NHK footage showed flames emerging from near the engines of the plane and firefighters battling the blaze. Although some 70 fire trucks were dispatched after the incident, which occurred at 5:47 p.m., the plane was almost entirely engulfed in flames as of 6:30 p.m., footage showed.
“I felt a bump, like the aircraft was colliding with something when touching down,” one of the passengers said. I saw a spark outside the window and the cabin was filled with gas and smoke.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday evening, officials from the transport ministry and coast guard said they were still in the process of confirming specific flight control communications between the JAL plane, the coast guard aircraft and air traffic controllers.
“I have never heard of such a major collision at an airport in Japan,” said Yoshitomo Aoki, an aviation analyst.
“The world’s air traffic control systems are designed to prevent accidents as long as air traffic controllers at airports issue correct instructions and pilots follow them.”