Survivors aid one another following plane crash

PHUKET, Thailand – Stunned by the plane crash, Robert Borland found himself helpless on the floor of the jet with his trousers aflame when a passenger in a yellow shirt helped him out onto the wing. He knows nothing else about the man who probably saved his life.

Borland was among 41 survivors of Sunday’s crash at the airport on the Thai resort island of Phuket. Eighty-nine people were killed when the One-Two-Go jetliner skidded off the runway, breaking up and catching fire as it plowed through a low wall.

“Everything was upside down, or at least it felt that way,” said Borland, recalling the screaming and fire. “My clothes caught fire, my trousers.”

He managed to drag himself toward an exit and was pulled to safety by another passenger.

“I couldn’t have gotten out myself and I’m pretty sure a Thai man in a yellow shirt helped me get out onto the wing,” he said. “I have no idea who he was, or where he came from. Then I fell off the wing.”

Thirty minutes later, Borland, 48, of Perth, Australia, was in a Phuket hospital, his legs burned and his left arm broken at the elbow.

“I’m glad to be alive. I just wish it could turn out all right for everybody,” he said.

Passengers and officials said the pilot tried to abort his landing in heavy rain and wind. He tried to pull up for a second attempt, and the aircraft lurched up, then down, hitting the tarmac hard.

Wind shear – a rapid change in wind speed that can affect takeoffs and landings – was a possible cause of the crash, said Kajit Habnanonda, president of Orient-Thai Airlines, which owns One-Two-Go. He said heavy rains could have contributed to the 24-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD-82 jetliner skidding off the runway.