Amid the smoke, the sparks and the beeping alarms, the 71 passengers of Air Canada Express Flight 8481 scrambled out after the plane made an emergency landing at Edmonton International Airport last week.
Among them, dazed, bruised and suffering from a concussion, was a woman in a window seat, Christina Kurylo. It was only afterward that she would realize she could have died in the accident.
A propeller blade had snapped off the right-side engine and smashed right into the window next to her seat.
“All of the sudden, something came crashing through the window and I got hit in the head,” Ms. Kurylo recalled in an interview Sunday.
Her memory of what happened next remains fuzzy. She credited her seatmate, whom she only knew as Mike, an employee for Encana Corp., with getting her out of the plane.
“I’m lucky it wasn’t worse,” she said.
New details of the event that emerged this weekend reveal that the landing was a more serious, dramatic ocurrence than first reported.
The plane, a Bombardier-built twin-engined Q400, was leaving Calgary on Thursday evening, heading for Grande Prairie, Alta, about 560 kilometres north.
Ms. Kurylo and a friend, Melissa Menard, were aboard as part of a group of employees from the Rock 97.7 radio station in Grande Prairie.
As the plane took off, “all of the sudden there was a big bang,” Ms. Menard said.
Shortly afterward, the captain announced that they had blown a tire. He said, because of poor wind conditions, that they couldn't return to Calgary and would instead try to land in Edmonton.
When they approached Edmonton, she could see emergency vehicles and firetrucks positioned near the runway.
Ms. Menard was sitting on the left side, in row 15. Ms. Kurylo sat further up in the cabin in a window seat on row 7 on the right side.
When the right landing gear deployed, Ms. Kurylo saw that the tire was “shredded and flapping.”
Ms. Menard said the landing initially seemed normal and passengers hadn’t been told to brace into a crash position.
Then the plane suddenly started rattling as they went down the runway. The right landing gear collapsed and the plane started tilting to the right. Ms. Menard felt as if she was in a car about to roll over.
Sparks lit up as the right-side undercarriage dragged on the runway. The lights inside had been dimmed for the landing, but the sparks were bright enough to illuminate the inside of the cabin.
When the propeller blade struck Ms. Kurylo’s window, her eyeglasses flew off and she was covered in broken plexiglass.
“After I got hit, I was kind of confused … It’s bits and pieces for me.”
Suddenly, the plane came to a halt.
There was a moment of silence before everyone cheered, whistled or clapped in relief. But as the cabin filled with smoke, they hurried out.
Ms. Kurylo heard someone yell, “Get off the plane, it’s on fire!” and Mike pulled her out.
Afterward, Ms. Menard found her friend waiting in an ambulance, her face bruised and studded with bits of plexiglass. A paramedic showed Ms. Kurylo a photo she had snapped of the propeller jammed into the window.
“She just wanted her to know how lucky that she was to be alive,” Ms. Menard said.
Ms. Kurylo was discharged from hospital after six hours, having suffered a concussion, sore neck and bruises on her head and shoulders.
Ms. Menard said she was surprised Air Canada didn’t acknowledge that it was a serious incident. “That propeller was inches away from killing someone.”
Manon Stuart, a spokeswoman for Jazz Aviation, which operates the flight for Air Canada, said all four passengers who were sent to hospital were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
In 2007, the manufacturer, Bombardier, had to deal with several landing-gear failures in Q400 planes operated by Scandinavian Airlines. The problem was blamed on corrosion.
The plane that carried Flight AC8481 was, however, a relatively new aircraft. Transport Canada records show that the plane, a DHC-8-402 model, was manufactured in 2012.
“At this point, there is no reason to question the safety of the Q400 aircraft. The cause of this incident is still unknown,” Ms. Stuart said.
Both Ms. Stuart and Bombardier spokeswoman Marianella de la Barrera said the Q400 is considered a robust, reliable aircraft.Report Typo/Error