Rain gives us our second life, says Cebu Pacific passenger

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Cebu Pacific aircraft overshot the Davao International Airport runway, Sunday June 2, 2013. Photo courtesy of Sun Star
Cebu Pacific aircraft overshot the Davao International Airport runway, Sunday June 2, 2013. Photo courtesy of Sun Star

By Judy G. Quiros

DAVAO CITY, 4June2013 – “We just want to tell our story, because it could have been a big boom after that. This is our second life,” said Dr. Jess Delgado, a professor of the Ateneo De Davao University (ADDU), one of the passengers of the Cebu Pacific’s Flight 5J 971, which overshot the Davao International Airport as it was landing on Sunday night.

Delgado and ADDU college student Gizelle D. Escobañez were among the 165 passengers of the ill-fated aircraft.

At a press conference Tuesday at the office of the ADDU president, Delgado said they could attest that the engine of the aircraft was burning as they were seated at the back portion of the aircraft. We saw it at the second touchdown.

Before touching down, the aircraft turned around Samal Island about 15 to 20 minutes in the middle of a heavy downpour and zero visibility.

But when they arrived at the DIA’s runway, and still raining, he said they saw lights on buildings and houses at the sides of the runway.

He said the aircraft made its first touchdown at the airport’s runway between 6:55 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. Five to seven seconds thereafter, was the second touchdown in which the plane had a full stop, overshot the runway, and ended at a ditch and grassy portion.

Escobañez said before the touchdown the aircraft faced a strong turbulence. She described the second and final touchdown of the aircraft similar to that of a four-wheeled vehicle when a driver rapidly applies a break resulting to a strong impact.

At that instance, she said she personally saw smoke and fire at the wing side of the aircraft prompting the passengers to panic.

She screamed addressing to Delgado “Sir, sir nasunog na ang wings (Sir, the wings are already on fire),”.

She said all passengers went screaming upon seeing the smoke and fire including the FAs who are also teary-eyed.

Despite the scary situation, the passengers never heard an advisory or instruction from the pilot or from the flight attendants (FAs) of what has happened and what the passengers should do.

Delgado said they were locked up inside the burning aircraft for about 27 minutes or nearly thirty minutes and no word from the pilot.

“No oxygen because the aircraft was totally shutdown. We dared not to send a text message to our family which we really wanted to do because we feel anytime the plane will blow up but we don’t know what to do because there are no instructions from the pilot,” he said.

He said businessman John Gaisano who was seated at the fire exit attempted to open the exit door so they could go out, but was told not to as precaution, the airplane might blow up.

Escobañez said when they were screaming, the FAs told them it’s okay to their disgust they knew it’s not okay as they saw the aircraft is on fire.

Delgado thanked the rain and to the pilot for immediately switching off the engine of the plane.

“Where if not for the rain the whole aircraft could have blown with all the passengers dead. This is really our second life, I thanked the rain,” he said.

As they embarked the plane they finally could see with their eyes that the engine is really burning, Delgado said.

They also saw aircraft crew unloading a very inflammable gas from the aircraft.

Still suffering from trauma, the passengers arrived at the airport’s holding room with no one from Cebu Pacific attending to them.

After two hours of waiting, a person who identified himself as manager-in-charge of Cebu Pacific started to look after them.

Delgado said there are passengers who could attest that there were a number of passengers who were treated due to the trauma they suffered while still inside the plane.

He also confirmed members of the media were barred from entering the holding room. This prompted the passengers to record all the discussions inside the room with the use of their cellular phones.

Passengers of the ill-fated flight are eyeing to organize themselves to come up with a synchronize move following the incident.

Delgado said while they were at the holding room all passengers wrote their names, designations and contact numbers in a piece of bond paper.

Monday night, led by ADDU, passengers met to discuss and to organize themselves and discuss their moves against the Cebu Pacific management, all because of the ill-manners they showed to the passengers in the middle of the crisis.

Delgado said all the passengers could tell their respective stories and testimonies for the fateful yet thankful incident, still because no one was injured. (PNA)

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