Birmingham Airport shut as transplant aircraft crashes

Nov 19 2010

_50074491_plane.jpgBirmingham Airport has been closed until 0600 GMT on Saturday after a small private jet carrying a liver for transplant crashed on a runway.

Two people were taken to hospital after the plane came down in fog.

The airport said the aircraft had hit its landing system antennae. One eyewitness said the plane was on fire as it came in to land at 1535 GMT.

The organ was safely delivered to the city's Queen Elizabeth Hospital by a police motorbike.

'Big fireball'

The hospital said the liver would be used for transplant on Friday evening after being clinically assessed.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch will review whether to open the airport on Saturday morning, the airport's chief executive Paul Kehoe said.

The aircraft involved was a private Cessna Citation 501 which was travelling from Belfast to Birmingham.

Mr Kehoe said the plane hit the instrument landing system glide path antennae (ILS) and had come to rest about 130m (426ft) to the right hand side of the southerly-facing runway.

Eyewitness Dennis Gough, who was playing golf on a course by the runway at the time of the crash, said: "As it was coming to land [the aircraft] was on fire and as it approached the runway it looked like it was leaning to one side slightly.

"Then, once it hit the runway there were sort of flames alongside the runway then it broke into a big fireball."

One man, believed to be in his 50s, was seriously injured and was airlifted to hospital, West Midlands Ambulance Service said.

The second person, a man thought to be in his 30s, was treated for burns to his body and a back injury.

Passengers due to use the airport have been advised to contact their airline first.

"The incident occurred on arrival into the airport and the emergency services are in attendance," an airport spokesman said.

"The airport is currently closed."

'Flash burns'

Manchester Airport and East Midlands Airport said they were taking diverted flights from Birmingham.

Peter Buettner, who was on a flight from Hamburg to Birmingham before it was diverted to Manchester, said: "I was trapped on the plane for two hours. The only explanation we got was that there were no buses available to take us to the tunnel.

"Staff were not allowed to serve us drinks, due to custom regulations they said. Only after lengthy discussions between passengers and staff were we then given some water."

BBC journalist Joe Baldwin, who was a passenger on another plane at Birmingham Airport, said he was on the aircraft for about 40 minutes when news of the incident came through and they had to disembark.

He said: "What was particularly interesting was at the point when I got on the plane it was a winter afternoon but relatively clear but 40 minutes later by the time I got off the plane it was zero visibility - an absolute blanket of fog had descended."

Police said the A45 near to the airport has been closed and traffic is currently extremely busy in the area. Commuters have been advised to avoid the area if possible.

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