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Plane hits control tower at Thai airport; 1 killed

7 people are hospitalized after flight makes landing in inclement weather

Workers inspect a Bangkok Airways aircraft after it skidded off the runway on Thailand's Samui island.
Workers inspect a Bangkok Airways aircraft after it skidded off the runway on Thailand's Samui island.
Wachara Kireewong, AFP/Getty Images

BANGKOK — A passenger plane skidded off the runway and crashed into a building after landing on the Thai resort island of Samui on Tuesday, killing the chief pilot and injuring at least seven people including foreign tourists.

The Bangkok Airways flight landed in stormy weather and hit the airport's old air traffic control tower, which had been converted into a fire station, said Kanikka Kemawutanond, director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation. The co-pilot and six tourists were hurt.

"The heavy damage was at the front of the plane where the pilot was. It looks like he suffered from the impact," police Maj. Col. Sayan Sartsri said.

The co-pilot, who was stuck in the aircraft for more than two hours, was among the last evacuated from the stricken plane. Television footage showed rescue workers pulling him from the aircraft and into an ambulance on the runway.

Kannikka, who earlier reported that 34 people were injured, said only seven were hospitalized while others sustained bruises and shock.

Samui, located 298 miles (480 kilometers) south of Bangkok, is an island in the Gulf of Thailand popular with foreign tourists.

Puttipong Prasartthong-Osoth, managing director of Bangkok Airways, said the foreign passengers included nationals of Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain and Israel.

He said four passengers — two Britons, one Italian and one Swiss — suffered broken legs, while two other Britons suffered less severe injuries. The co-pilot also had leg injuries.

The Italian, Mirella Gastaldi, who was vacationing with her family, was brought to hospital. She recounted how the plane sped off the runway.

"After landing it was going too fast, it was not normal, it didn't brake," Gastaldi told Italy's RAI state TV. "It was going too fast and a bit to the side. It all happened so fast, I realized we had crashed because I had two seats on top of me."

Kanikka said the ATR72-500 twin-turboprop had 68 passengers, two pilots and two crew members on board and was flying from Krabi, another popular resort area in southern Thailand.

"Initial reports indicated that the weather was bad with heavy rain and wind. We do not know what the pilot did or did not do that led to the incident at this point and I would rather not speculate," she said.

Puttipong said the chief pilot had 19 years of experience.

In 1990, a Bangkok Airways turboprop crashed into a coconut grove short of the airport during heavy rain, killing all 37 people on board.

The French-Italian manufactured ATR72 has been involved in a number of incidents in recent years.

One in South Korea skidded off the runway while landing at the resort island of Jeju in 2006, injuring six people. Two years earlier, an ATR72 of Thai Airways had to make an emergency evacuation of passengers when its front landing gear collapsed during a landing in northern Thailand.

A Cambodian airliner slipped off a runway and got stuck in the mud near the ancient temples of Angkor in 2001. And in 1994, a Chicago-bound American Eagle ATR-72 crashed in northern Indiana, killing all 68 people aboard.