Plane Crash at Tokyo Airport Kills 5, Japan Airlines’ Evacuation Saves All Civilian Passengers

JAL 516, an Airbus A350, struck an earthquake relief aircraft operated by Japan Coast Guard members.
NBC News

Following a devastating 7.5-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan yesterday, killing dozens and leaving countless more missing, an earthquake relief plane was struck by a landing Japan Airlines (JAL) plane at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. JAL flight 516, an Airbus A350-900, burst into flames following the collision today, at 3:47 AM EST (5:47 PM local time). Thankfully, all passengers and crew members aboard JAL 516 made it out alive. Sadly, however, five of the six Japan Coast Guard members aboard the earthquake relief plane were killed.

Images and videos have been flooding social media and, while it’s unclear exactly how the two planes collided on the runway, it seems miraculous that every JAL 516 passenger—which included eight infants—survived. According to Reuters, JAL 516 was landing when it crashed into the coast guard plane and skidded down the runway on fire. The plane then erupted into a massive fireball. In some of the social media video, you can watch the plane continue down the runway on fire, as well as the cabin fill with smoke. While all 379 passengers survived, at least 17 were injured and taken to a nearby hospital.

Tragically, Japan’s transport minister Tetsuo Saito confirmed that five of the coast guard members aboard the relief plane died, while the captain remains in critical condition. The coast guard plane had been getting ready to leave for an airbase in Niigata, to help deliver aid to earthquake victims.

“I felt a boom like we had hit something and jerked upward the moment we landed,” a JAL 516 passenger told Kyodo News, according to Reuters. “I saw sparks outside the window and the cabin filled with gas and smoke.”

Naturally, all departures out of Haneda airport are cancelled and there’s no word when they will resume.

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