3 killed as plane skids off runway in Honduran capital

A pilot and two other people were killed Friday when a plane veered off a runway while landing in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.
Rescue workers are seen next to a commercial airliner after it crashed in Tegucigalpa on Friday. ((Fernando Antonio/Associated Press))
A pilot and two other people were killed Friday when a passenger plane veered off a runway while landing in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, coming to rest on a city street.

More than 75 people were injured, including Brazil's ambassador to Honduras, Brian Michael Fraser Neele. Police said he was being treated at a private hospital.

Television footage showed firefighters hosing down cars trapped under the Grupo TACA passenger jet as crowds of onlookers gathered. The plane had smashed into an embankment and snapped into pieces.

More than 7,500 litres of jet fuel spilled out of the plane, which was broken in three pieces. Authorities cleared away hundreds of onlookers crowding around the streets.

"The airplane's fuel could cause an explosion, and that would be an even bigger tragedy," Security Ministry spokesman Ivan Mejia said.

Rescue workers try to pull passengers and crew members from the airliner after it skidded off the runway. ((Jose Osoria/Associated Press))

Cesar Villalta, director of Honduras's military hospital, confirmed that the plane's pilot was killed, while officials at another hospital said a passenger died after having a heart attack shortly after the crash. He has been identified as Nicaraguan Harry Brautigam, president of the Tegucigalpa-based Central American Bank for Economic Integration, said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

A third person, believed to be a taxi driver, was killed when the plane struck a vehicle on the street.

There were at least 124 people on the plane, which was arriving from San Salvador. It was scheduled to stop briefly in Tegucigalpa and in San Pedro Sula before heading to Miami.

The plane landed hours after the passage of tropical storm Alma, which left parts of the city shrouded in fog. The plane reportedly circled the airport several times before landing.

There have been calls for years to replace aging Toncontin International Airport, where a short runway, primitive navigation equipment and neighbouring hills make it one of the world's more dangerous international airports.

The airport was built on the southern edge of hilly Tegucigalpa in 1948 with a runway less than 1,600 metres long.

With files from the Associated Press