Nova Scotia

Air Canada AC624 crash: It took 50 minutes to get everyone inside

It took almost an hour to get everyone off the runway and into shelter after the crash of Air Canada Flight 624, according to Peter Spurway, vice-president of the Halifax International Airport Authority.

Peter Spurway says time of landing, lack of shuttle buses slowed response

Peter Spurway with the Halifax International Airport Authority says no one was seriously injured 7:23

It took almost an hour to get everyone off the runway and into shelter after the crash of Air Canada Flight 624, according to Peter Spurway, spokesman for the Halifax International Airport Authority. 

​​A fire truck arrived at the scene within 90 seconds of the very rough landing of the plane from Toronto. The crew first assessed the aircraft for flames, smoke or fuel leaks. 

When they'd established it was safe, they began to triage the "most vulnerable" passengers and brought them into the truck to keep warm. 

There was quite an impact. It came down pretty hard and skidded before coming to a halt.— Peter Spurway

The firefighters set up tarps as a makeshift shelter for everyone else. It took 50 minutes to get everyone inside the airport. 

Spurway said it took that long as it's dangerous to let passengers walk on the "active" runway and that at 12:50 a.m. on a Sunday, there were no shuttle buses available. Some passengers wore only shorts, T-shirts and sandals. 

"The emergency response team was there immediately. Their primary purpose is to ensure that there is no fire or explosion danger in the immediate area," he said. "Then they turned their attention to the passengers who were at that point, of course, out of the aircraft and adjacent to it.​"

He said airport staff scrambled to find safe ways to get everyone inside. "The simple matter is that it's not as if we have buses sitting and running and waiting to go. I do apologize to the passengers," Spurway said. 

Heavy snow at time of incident

Spurway said the plane hit the ground "thousands of metres" away from the terminal and far enough away from the other runway that they believe it is safe to use that other runway. 

He said the power was on, and went out at the time of the incident, or shortly after the incident. 

Asked about the difference between a crash landing and a hard landing, he said, "If you're a passenger, probably [there] isn't a whole lot of difference."

Spurway spoke to a flight attendant friend who was on the plane. ​"There was quite an impact. It came down pretty hard and skidded before coming to a halt. So it was definitely a hard landing for sure," he said. 

It was snowing at the time, conditions the tower would have passed onto the aircraft, he said. 

Spurway said the airport will look at their response in this incident to see how they can improve in the future. 

Emergency responders guide shocked passengers away from the plane. Many left everything behind and had just the clothes on their backs. (Denis Lavoie)

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