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Fire and Suffocation at Tenerife

First Officer Robert Bragg survived the crash, as did the captain and flight engineer.  In NOVA's documentary, The Deadliest Plane Crash, Bragg and other survivors describe what happened immediately after the crash: 

ROBERT BRAGG:  "No one came to us for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I remember thinking, 'I wonder why somebody hasn't gotten out here to help us.'"

NARRATOR:
  "For 20 long minutes, the Pan Am passengers are left to fend for themselves."

ROBERT BRAGG:  "The entire left wing of the airplane was covered with passengers. And it turned out there were probably 45 to 50 passengers out on that wing."

KAREN ANDERSON:  "I've never asked anybody how high the wing is from the ground on a 747, but it looks to be a very long ways."

WARREN HOPKINS:  "And I cut open my head and fractured my foot. My wife jumped after me, and she said, 'I cannot walk.' And I dragged her on her side for probably a block and a half away from the plane."

ERMA SCHLECHT:
  "The motors were going full tilt, and I didn't want to get over where the motors were. So I sat down by the body of the plane. I had no comprehension, at that moment, that I would be jumping off the wing and..."

SUZANNE DONOVAN:
  "In the debris, you knew, there were trapped passengers and...people, and there was absolutely nothing you could do to help, because the airplane was collapsing in on people."

ROBERT BRAGG:
"When I got out on the ground, I could hear people screaming and yelling and all. Within about five minutes you heard absolutely nothing. There was no noise at all, just the air...the airplane burning.

"I asked one of our medical directors later on what he calls that, and he said, when you have a fire that hot and that much of a fire, it consumes all of the oxygen in the air, and people basically suffocate."


Media Credits

These quotes are taken from The Deadliest Plane Crash transcript (available online at the PBS web site).

 

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