MUMBAI (Reuters) – A Jet Airways Boeing 737 aircraft with 161 people on board veered off an airport runway in Goa shortly before take off just before daybreak on Tuesday, crossing a field before spinning into a ditch on the side of a service road.
A dozen people suffered injuries as the 154 passengers and seven crew on the Mumbai bound flight were evacuated, Jet said in a statement.
“The flight 9W 2374 from Goa-Mumbai skidded off the runway at Dabolim airport this morning due to a technical glitch while aligning for takeoff,” the statement said.
December is the busiest month for Dabolim airport, outside state capital Panjim, as holidaymakers flock to Goa’s palm fringed beaches and exotic tourist markets during the winter season.
Television images showed injured lying on stretchers in darkness on the service road, with fire engines parked near the stricken plane, which appeared to have lost its front undercarriage, and damaged a wing as it rested on its belly and engine casings.
Some passengers said they saw smoke in the cabin as the aircraft began taxiing on the runway. One of the injured described how the accident unfolded.
“I fractured my leg,” said Dinesh Kumar, a passenger on Times Now TV channel. “The moment the plane started running on the runway, it slipped into the nearby field and there was smoke inside the flight.”
A Jet Airways spokeswoman said the carrier was looking into how the incident occurred.
“It needs time for proper investigation to go on and we are cooperating with the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation),” she said.
The airline is India’s second largest passenger carrier.
In a separate incident in New Delhi airport, a Spicejet airplane was preparing to take off at the same time as a flight run by Indigo had landed and was headed to the runway’s taxiway, but the pilots avoided a collision and no-one was injured, the two companies said in separate statements.
Indigo and Spicejet said they were working with authorities investigating the incident.
Air travel is surging in India, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Passenger numbers on domestic flights jumped 21 percent in 2015 to more than 80 million. The government foresees that number growing to 300 million by 2022.
(Reporting by Suvashree Dey Choudhury and Promit Mukherjee, additional reporting by Rahul Bhatia; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)