Puneet Varma

1987 Belize Air International C 97 Mexico City crash

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Date  30 July 1987
Crew  4
Passengers  8 (18 horses)
Fatalities  49 (44 on the ground)
1987 Belize Air International C-97 Mexico City crash
Summary  Crashed onto highway due to cargo shift and gear malfunction which led to a low climb rate
Site  Toluca - Mexico City highway, Cuajimalpa, Mexico City, Mexico

The 1987 Mexico City air disaster occurred on 30 July 1987, when a Belize Air International Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter, bound for Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport crashed onto the Mexico - Toluca highway during the late afternoon rush hour. A total of 49 people, including 44 on the ground, were killed in the crash. At least 20 people were injured, with reports that the number could be much higher. The accident was caused due to cargo shift in the compartment, causing a shift of the center of gravity. A short circuit also caused the landing gear to extend, leading to the aircraft's rapid loss of lift. The crash was the second deadliest aircraft accident involving a Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter.

Contents

Accident

The aircraft, a Boeing C-97G Stratofreighter, registered as HI-481, was operated as a cargo flight by Belize Air International. It was carrying 18 champion horses, for an equestrian competition in Miami, for Indianapolis for the 10th Annual Pan American Games. The aircraft took off from Mexico City International Airport at 5:01 p.m. Five minutes after takeoff, the aircraft suddenly had difficulty gaining altitude. The altimeter failed, and the crew tried to pull up the jet as it flew directly towards skyscrapers. The pilots managed to dodged several skyscrapers in the city, including the Mexicana Airlines Headquarters tower and the Hotel de Mexico. The crew then discussed about the suitable place for an emergency landing. Due to the lack of time and controls of the plane, both pilots decided to land the plane at Toluca - Mexico highway.

A problem developed on the plane's landing gear and caused a short circuit. The short circuit caused small fires on the aircraft, with smoke emitting from its engines. The aircraft then slammed onto the highway with its belly. The wings struck a high tension tower, causing a massive blackout in nearby neighborhood. The aircraft flew under a pedestrian bridge and smashed into vehicles, killing some motorists instantly and horribly injuring others. The jet skidded down the highway and broke into two sections. The tail of the plane separated from its main body and smashed into a three story building, while the rest of the aircraft skidded and impacted the crowded Tras Lomita restaurant. It then exploded in what onlookers described as "inferno". Parts of the aircraft then flew into a gas station and causing a massive fire.

Emergency services immediately arrived at the scene and pulled several survivors from the wreckage. At least 7 people inside the plane were found alive, including pilot Frederick Moore, an American; co-pilot Robert Banty, also an American and the load master. Dead horses could be seen after the crash. Two out of 18 horses had to be shot by police, as they were too badly injured. At least one horse survived with good condition and evacuated from the scene. 12 people were evacuated by helicopter to the Red Cross hospital with third-degree burns. Teresa Marquez of the federal Emergency Rescue Service said at least seven people on the ground were severely burned and taken to two hospitals At least 25 vehicles were rammed and caught fire due to the crash, and a further 44 people on the ground were killed, bringing the death toll to nearly 50. Officials estimated the plane left a 450-to-600 foot path of destruction as it skidded along the highway.

Cause

In response to the crash, pilot Moore and co-pilot Banty were detained by Mexican authorities. The investigation found that during the climbout process, the horses inside the aircraft panicked and ran around inside the compartment. This causing a shift on the aircraft's center of gravity. A short circuit later occurred and caused a gear malfunction. This malfunction caused small fires on the body of the aircraft, panicking the horses.

References

1987 Belize Air International C-97 Mexico City crash Wikipedia


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