Boeing 737 catches fire, skids off runway at Senegal’s main airport

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A Boeing 737-300 plane carrying 85 people caught fire and skidded off a runway at Senegal’s main airport, near the capital of Dakar. Ten people were injured in the crash, including the pilot, the country’s transport minister said Thursday.

Passengers were evacuated from the burning aircraft at Blaise Diagne International airport and some described “complete panic” as they scrambled for their lives.

The Air Sénégal flight operated by TransAir was headed to Bamako, in neighboring Mali, late on Wednesday with 79 passengers, two pilots and four cabin crew, when the crash happened. The airport is located about 31 miles from Dakar.

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It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the plane to catch fire and skid off the runway. The injured were being treated at a hospital, while the others were taken to a hotel to rest, the minister added.

Passengers jumped down the emergency slides at night while flames engulfed one side of the aircraft and screams were heard all around, recounted Malian musician Cheick Siriman Sissoko, who filmed the passengers’ ordeal on his phone camera.

“I saw my life flash before my eyes,” he said. “I thought about my mother, my wife, my kids,” Sissoko, 39, told The Associated Press from the hotel where passengers were recovering from the shock.

“Only the slide on one side opened, so there was complete panic during the evacuation,” he added.

Air Senegal 737

A Boeing 737-700 af Air Senegal is pictured on the tarmac in front of a hangar housing the head offices of the company on April 27, 2009. Air Senegal ceased all operations amid an ownership dispute 4 days ago stemming from financial difficulties, between Dakar and the company’s majority stakeholder Royal Air Maroc. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images)

Ibrahim Diallo, 20, a Malian citizen aboard the flight, said the plane had attempted to take off earlier that night but failed.

“The pilot told us everything was under control and that we’re going to try to take off again,” he told the AP. “The second time, smoke started coming from one of the wings.”

Boeing referred all request for comment to the airlines.

“Carriers operate and maintain their airplanes for upwards of 30 to 40 years,” a statement said. “We refer you to each operator for questions related to their fleet operations. We will provide any requested support to our customer.”

Air Sénégal did not respond to a request for comment but posted a statement on teh social media platform X, saying that flights between Dakar and Bamako were rescheduled to a later date, without providing further details.

It was the third incident involving a Boeing airplane this week. Also on Thursday, 190 people were safely evacuated from a plane in Turkey after one of its tires burst during landing at a southern airport, Turkey’s transportation ministry said.

The company has been under intense pressure since a door plug blew out of a Boeing 737 Max during an Alaska Airlines flight in January, leaving a gaping hole in the plane. The Federal Aviation Administration in February gave Boeing 90 days to come up with a plan to fix quality problems and meet safety standards for building planes after the accident.

The incident has raised scrutiny of Boeing to the highest level since two crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people. About a dozen relatives of passengers who died in the second crash have been pushing the U.S. government to revive a criminal fraud charge against the company by determining that Boeing violated terms of a 2021 settlement.

In April, a Boeing whistleblower, Sam Salehpour, testified at a congressional hearing that the company had taken manufacturing shortcuts to turn out 787s as quickly as possible that could lead to jetliners breaking apart.

The Aviation Safety Network, which tracks airline accidents, described the plane in Senegal’s crash as a Boeing 737-38J, an aircraft that was delivered in the 1990s. The network published photos on X of the damaged plane in a grassy field, surrounded by fire suppressant foam. One engine appeared to have broken apart and a wing was also damaged, according to the photos.

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The network is part of the Flight Safety Foundation, a nonprofit group that aims to promote safe air travel and tracks accidents.



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