DUBAI // Aviation officials are investigating the cause of a crash landing in Dubai in which 13 passengers were injured.
Flight EK521 from Thiruvananthapuram, India, was carrying 300 people when it crash landed and caught fire on the runway at about 12.45pm on Wednesday.
All passengers and crew on board were safe, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates, said in a video statement.
However, one firefighter attending the blaze was killed.
Officials hailed the heroism of the Dubai Airports firefighter, identified as Jassim Al Baloushi from Ras Al Khaimah, who “lost his life while saving the lives of others”, according to a statement from the General Civil Aviation Authority.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, on Wednesday night praised Jassim for his courage and sacrifice and sent his sympathies to his family.
“We offer our condolences to the family and friends of the martyr of the nation, firefighter Jassim Essa Al Baloushi,” Sheikh Mohammed said on his Twitter account. “We ask God to grant his family and his friends with patience and solace.
“As bereaved as we are over Jassim, we are nonetheless proud of our young men and their sacrifice in the line of duty as they protect lives and save people.
“These are men that make their nation proud for generations.”
His funeral is expected to be conducted after sunrise on Thursday in Ras Al Khaimah, at Sheikh Rashid Mosque in Al Kharran.
“I salute his ultimate sacrifice that kept many from harm’s way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA.
Al Baloushi succumbed to injuries sustained while responding to the accident, said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Sheikh Ahmed commended the professionalism of all who handled the incident, including the Emirati pilot, who had more than 7,000 flight hours, and his Australian co-pilot.
Evacuation procedures were executed professionally and the cabin crew were the last to leave the plane, he said.
“The minute we knew everybody walked away from the aircraft, we were very much relieved,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
Reports suggested that the airliner touched down without its landing gear extended, but Sheikh Ahmed declined to answer questions about the undercarriage, saying he wanted fuller details to provide accurate information.
The Boeing 777-300 aircraft had been in operation since 2003 and had passed all safety checks, the most recent of which was conducted about a year ago.
Ten of the 13 injured were still in hospital last night for treatment of moderate injuries, he said.
The incident led officials to shut Dubai International Airport for nearly six hours, causing dozens of flights to be delayed or cancelled.
Departures resumed at 6.30pm but with restricted capacity. Arriving flights were given priority over departures.
Other flights were turned round to their departure airports or diverted to Dubai World Central, Sharjah, Al Ain, Fujairah, Bahrain and Muscat airports. Emirates said it would waive all rebooking or cancellation fees for flights affected by the incident.
Ismail Abdel Wahed, executive director of air accident investigations at the GCAA, said that investigators would collect all the necessary information, including the black box data, as well as conduct interviews with those involved.
“Once we have been given the all-clear from the emergency services that the aircraft fire has been extinguished, we will make arrangements for it to be removed from the scene to allow us to continue our investigations,” he said yesterday.
Dubai resident Girisankal Gangadhakan said his wife called him to tell him that she and their three children onboard had been involved in an accident but were safe.
“I was shocked when I heard about that,” he said.
The plane had taken off from Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram, which is the capital of the Indian state of Kerala. People from 20 countries were aboard the aircraft, including 11 Emiratis.
Boeing’s 777 model is the largest twin-engined airliner in production and the most used wide-body aircraft.
Emirates is the largest operator of the Boeing 777.
The aeroplane also has one of the best safety records, with only a handful of them having suffered irreparable damage since the model’s introduction, according to Aviation Safety Network.
Boeing said it was “thankful” that all aboard were safe and that a Boeing technical team was “standing by to launch in support of the US national transportation safety board”, but referred questions to the GCAA.
Emirates dedicated telephone lines for family members to call for information.
They are: UAE – 8002111; Trivandrum – 91 471 3377337; UK – 442034508853; US – 18113502081.
*Additional reporting by the Associated Press and Bloomberg
Source: uae news