'Everyone started screaming' says Canadian of Guyana crash
CTV News.ca Staff
Published Sunday, July 31, 2011 10:09PM EDT
One Canadian family on board Caribbean Airlines flight 523 became separated and suffered cuts and bruises as they, along with other survivors, scrambled to escape the crumpled plane when it crash landed in Georgetown, Guyana.
Priya Pestano was travelling to the South American country with her mother and two nieces when the plane overshot Cheddi Jagan International Airport's runway, slid through a chain-link fence and narrowly avoided a deep ravine early Saturday morning.
The plane's fuselage snapped in half but all 162 passengers and crew, including 12 Canadians, on the Boeing 737 survived. Only about 30 were injured.
With a bandage above her right eye, an emotional Pestano recounted her harrowing journey in a CTV News exclusive interview from Georgetown on Sunday night.
Pestano, a Toronto resident, said the passengers started to get excited when the crew announced that they were 15 minutes away from landing but she noticed that the plane wasn't slowing down as it approached the runway.
Pestano, 33, said she could feel the bumps on the tarmac as the plane started to touch down but the landing quickly became rougher and bumpier.
"Within a few seconds I flung to the front of the seat and hit my head," she said. "And everyone started screaming 'the plane's going to blow up, the plane's going to blow up, get off, get off.' It happened really, really fast"
She said she stayed calm as she tried to reach her mother and nieces a few rows behind her but was unable to move to the back of the plane. She instead slid down the wing to escape.
"The most terrifying part was coming out and not finding them," she said. "We exited the plane on opposite sides. I spent about 10 minutes running around searching for them to make sure they were OK."
Her mother, Indrowtee Ross, and her nieces, 15-year-old Renee and 13-year-old Rockel managed to escape out the back and were also frantically searching for her.
"That was the most hardest thing that I ever faced in my life," Ross said. "Not seeing my daughter. I kept running back to the plane, I kept calling her."
Ross, who is sporting a bandage on the bridge of her nose, said she's worried about getting back on a plane and returning to Canada.
"We have to go back but we're scared to travel," she said.
The airport was in the middle of a systems upgrade to help pilots land in the night, but all the new systems weren't yet operating.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the crash.
With files from CTV's Omar Sachedina