Investigators find black boxes

PHUKET, Thailand -- Authorities today found the two flight data recorders from a plane that crashed and killed 90 people -- mostly foreigners -- on Thailand's resort island of Phuket.

The One-Two-Go Airlines flight was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew from Bangkok to Phuket when it skidded off a runway Sunday while landing in driving wind and rain. It caught fire and engulfed some passengers in flames as others kicked out windows to escape.

Kajit Habnanonda, president of Orient-Thai Airlines, said wind shear -- the rapid change in wind speed which can impact takeoffs and landings -- was a possible cause of the accident. Heavy rains could have contributed to the plane skidding off the runway, Kajit added.

One-Two-Go is the domestic subsidiary of Orient-Thai Airlines, a regional charter carrier based in Thailand.

At least four Americans were among the 54 foreign tourists killed, according to a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Bangkok who spoke on condition of anonymity citing protocol. One American survived the crash.

Passengers from France, Sweden, Iran and Australia also were killed, as were the plane's Indonesian pilot and Thai co-pilot, according to the airline's list of dead passengers.

Survivors described how the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 was preparing to land in heavy rains when it suddenly lifted off again and then came crashing down on the runway. It rammed through a low retaining wall and split in two after it crashed.

"I think he realized the runway was too close or he was too fast or the wind had hit him," Robert Borland, a survivor who lives in Australia, said. "He accelerated and tried to pull out. I thought he was going around again and the next thought was everything went black and there was a big mess and we hit the ground."

Borland, 48, managed to drag himself to an exit where he was pulled by another survivor from the plane to safety.

"People were screaming. There was a fire in the cabin, and my clothes caught fire," he said.

Parinwit Chusaeng, who was slightly burned, said some passengers were engulfed in flames. "I stepped over them on the way out of the plane," Parinwit told The Nation TV channel. "I was afraid that the airplane was going to explode, so I ran away."

Parts of the twisted plane lay smoking at the side of the runway, while officials wearing masks carried bodies wrapped in white sheets to an airport storage building.

Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen said the plane's black boxes would be sent to the United States for analysis.

Many of the passengers had been planning to vacation at Phuket, a popular beach resort that was among the areas hit hardest by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 8,000 people on the island.


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