Plane breaks into pieces after skidding off runway in Istanbul

Passengers had to be evacuated through cracks in the plane, local media report.
Image: First responders look inside the Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-86J plane, after it overran the runway during landing and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport
First responders look inside the Pegasus Airlines plane after it overran the runway during landing and crashed, at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport in Turkey. Kemal Aslan / Reuters

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By Aziz Akyavas

ANKARA, Turkey — A plane broke into pieces after it skidded off the runway and crashed into a field at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Wednesday.

At least 120 people were injured and had been taken to hospital, Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya said shortly after the crash.

He added that there were 177 people on board the Pegasus Airlines plane that was arriving from the resort of Izmir in Western Turkey. This included six crew members, he said.

"As of now, there are no deaths and the injured are being sent to hospitals," Pegasus Airlines said in a statement.

Television footage showed serious damage to the plane and he fuselage appeared to be broken into three pieces. Dozens of rescue crew members could be seen swarming around the flood-lit fuselage, including around the cockpit, which had flipped over.

The privately run NTV television reported that the plane caught fire after skidding but said the blaze had been extinguished.

The plane was a Boeing 737 that was 11 years old, according to the flight tracking website Flightradar24.

"According to the information we have, there was a rough landing. The accident occurred after (the plane) could not decelerate and rammed into a field from the end of the runway," state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mehmet Cahit Turan as saying.

The accident comes less than a month after a Pegasus plane with 164 people on board skidded off the runway in Istanbul at the same airport.

There were no deaths or injuries in that incident on Jan. 7. In January 2018, another Boeing 737-800 in the Pegasus' fleet slid off a runway at northeastern Turkey's Trabzon Airport and down a dirt embankment.

That plane came to rest in the dirt above the Black Sea with its nose pointed toward the water. None of the 168 passengers and crew members were injured.

It is rare for a fuselage to split open while pieces remain largely intact. Planes are designed to absorb impact forces in the bottom of the fuselage to improve the chances that passengers in the cabin above will survive.

In 2013, the tail of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 broke off after the jet hit a seawall during approach to San Francisco International Airport. Three people died, 49 were seriously injured and scores more suffered minor injuries, according to the U.S. accident report.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.