Japan Airlines Plane Burns Up At Tokyo Airport After Collision Leaving 5 Dead

Japan Airlines’ A350 airplane is on fire at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Japan January 2, 2024. REUTERS/Issei Kato
A spokesperson at JAL said the aircraft, Flight 516, an Airbus A-350, was carrying 367 passengers and 12 crew. It landed at 5:47 p.m. and burst into flames after its left wing apparently hit the Japanese coast guard plane.
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A Japan Airlines plane collided with a Coast Guard aircraft while landing at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Tuesday evening, forcing hundreds of passengers to escape before the jetliner was engulfed in flames.

Television footage showed the plane burning on the runway. The aircraft was an Airbus A350 operating as flight 516 from Shin-Chitose Airport on the country’s northern island of Hokkaido.

According to JAL, all of the nearly 400 passengers and crew made it out of the aircraft. Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that at least 17 people on the flight were injured.

Authorities said the flight collided with a Japan Coast Guard plane while landing. Police said five of the six crew members on the Coast Guard aircraft were killed, while the captain is in serious condition.

Five of the six crew of the coast guard MA-722 aircraft have died, public broadcaster NHK reported. A coast guard spokesperson earlier said five of the crew were unaccounted for but that the captain had escaped.

“I felt a boom like we had hit something and jerked upward the moment we landed,” a passenger on the JAL flight told Kyodo news agency. “I saw sparks outside the window and the cabin filled with gas and smoke.”

A spokesperson at Japan Airlines said its aircraft, Flight 516, had departed from Shin-Chitose airport in Hokkaido. The collision occurred shortly after landing at 5:40 p.m.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed relevant agencies to coordinate to assess the damage swiftly and provide information to the public, according to his office.

Haneda, one of Tokyo’s two main airports, has closed all runways following the incident, a spokesperson said.

Kaoru Ishii, a mother who was waiting outside the arrival gate for her 29-year-old daughter and boyfriend coming back on the flight said she initially though the flight was delayed until her daughter called to explain.

“She said the plane had caught fire and she exited via a slide,” Ishii said. “I was really relieved that she was alright.”

The incident occurred as Japan was already reeling from the major earthquake that struck its Sea of Japan coast on New Year’s Day, causing multiple deaths and widespread damage. The Coast Guard plane is understood to have been involved in delivering aid to the quake-hit region.

“Thanks to the calm response of JAL and airport staff, and the passengers, all the crew and passengers of the JAL plane were able to escape,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

“The five Coast Guard personnel who lost their lives were doing their jobs with a high sense of responsibility for those affected by the earthquake,” the prime minister continued. “It is truly regrettable, and I express my respect and gratitude for their sense of responsibility and pray for their souls.”

For JAL, this marks its most serious accident in decades. The airline suffered its worst disaster in 1985, when flight 123 from Haneda to Osaka crashed after a bulkhead rupture severed its hydraulics, killing 520 people.

All landings and departures at Haneda were halted around 6 p.m. on Tuesday as emergency workers rushed to contain the fire, which occurred on runway C — one of four runways at the airport.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is investigating the accident.

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