In the early hours of Sunday morning, an Air Canada plane crash-landed at Halifax Airport, as the pilot negotiated a tricky landing during a snowstorm. The Airbus A320 “exited the runway,” hitting several utility poles and causing a power outage, according to The New York Times. All 132 passengers were evacuated after landing and some were transported to hospital, although there were no serious injuries.
“It was a hard landing, and the aircraft left the runway,” Peter Spurway, a spokesman for Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Nova Scotia, told CNN. Air Canada Flight 624 left Toronto Pearson International Airport at 9 p.m. Saturday with a total of 137 individuals aboard (including five crew members). The plane touched down 12:25 a.m. local time on Sunday, at which point a winter storm warning was in effect in Halifax. An Environment Canada alert warned, “Visibility may be suddenly reduced at times in heavy snow.” Although no major injuries have been reported, 23 people were taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, according to a statement released by Air Canada.
The plane had been damaged in the landing, Spurway told CNN, although he would not elaborate beyond saying, “It is off the runway now.” An Air Canada spokeswomen refused to describe the damage in an email to The Globe and Mail. “We have no information to provide on the condition of the aircraft at this point,” she wrote. Photographs taken in the aftermath of the incident seem to show damage to the aircraft’s nose, as well as its starboard wing and tail. ABC News reported that the airport had activated its emergency center following the crash. The terminal’s power-supply, cut off by the clipped power-lines, was restored after an hour.
Passenger Randy Hall was on his way home from a holiday in Mexico with his wife. He told ABC, “We were just coming in to land and there was a big flash. The plane came down, bang! It jumped up in the air again.” Then, he said, “We were sliding along on our belly.” According to Hall, the impact was violent enough to rip the landing gear and an engine off the body of the plane. “I was looking out and I saw the landing gear go and I saw an engine go,” he recalled.
Passengers exited immediately, according to witnesses, but remained on the tarmac in inclement conditions for some time before buses arrived to take them away. Luckily, passenger Mike Magnus noted, the wet weather acted as a flame-retardant. “The snow caused it and the snow saved it,” in the words of the 60-year-old businessman. Spurway said that the delay in picking up passengers was due to the fire trucks' limited space and the inconvenient power outage. He told reporters:
Once it was determined that threat was out of the way, they put some of the passengers in fire trucks to get them out of the weather on a triage basis … There was a large tarp used to protect some of the passengers but they were out there for a while, that’s for sure, until the buses arrived.
ABC reports that several Sunday morning flights had been cancelled at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada confirmed that two investigators were due at the airport early Sunday. Air Canada announced it would cooperate entirely with the investigation into what had gone wrong.