“We could have died… we did not land on the runway; I think we landed on the soil”

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 3 June) – Businessman John Gaisano describes the landing of Cebu Pacific Flight 5J971 Sunday night as “very rough” he thought they would die.

“We could have died when we landed,” Gaisano told MindaNews. He said he felt like “we did not land on the runway.”

Rescuers come to the aid of the Cebu Pacific plane that skidded off the runway of the Davao International Airport Sunday evening (3 June 2013). Reports say none of the 165 passengers were hurt. Photo taken by a passenger shortly after the incident. MindaNews photo
Rescuers come to the aid of the Cebu Pacific plane that skidded off the runway of the Davao International Airport Sunday evening (3 June 2013). Reports say none of the 165 passengers were hurt. Photo taken by a passenger shortly after the incident. MindaNews photo

“I think we landed on the soil,” said the entrepreneur who holds key positions, among others, as President and Chief Executive Officer of JHG Trading, Inc. and JS Gaisano, Inc., chair of Koinonia Theological Foundation, president of Bethel Foods, Inc., and member of the Board of Trustees and past chair of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc.

Gaisano said Flight 5J971 was supposed to have left Manila at 4:50 p.m. but the flight was delayed and they took off only at 5:30 p.m., expecting to land at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport or Davao International Airport at around 7:30 p.m.

He said there was no announcement at all from the cockpit or the crew about what was happening. “It was strange. There was no announcement at all for so long, maybe 15 to 20 minutes or longer. The pilot said nothing. The flight crew did not come out.”

Seated on 15B, Gaisano said he saw smoke coming out from the front side of the plane so he moved toward the (emergency) exit a few seats behind him, waiting for the pilot to say something.

“Should I or should I not open? I was worried. If the smoke thickened, I’m not going to wait for the engine to explode,” Gaisano narrated.

Fortunately, the smoke did not thicken, he said.

“After quite some time,” the pilot came out of the cockpit and was making an announcement but only those at the front row could hear him as the PA system was apparently not working.

“People were stunned and scared,” the entrepreneur who also serves as vice chair of the University of the Philippines – Mindanao Foundation, said.

Gaisano, who was returning home from a trip abroad, was reading Gary Chapman’s book, “The Love Languages of God: How to Feel and Reflect Divine Love,” when the aircraft made its “very rough landing.” The book got thrown off from the 15th row and was found on the third row.

When they reached the arrivals terminal, the ground crew was not of much help either as no one appeared to be in charge, he said.

Gaisano said he reached home some two hours after the plane was supposed to have landed. He said he didn’t wait anymore for his baggage to be offloaded.

He said he received calls from Cebu Pacific at midnight and another one in the morning, asking how they could help him.

Gaisano said he told the airline company “it took long for your people to respond” and urged the company to immediately attend to the passengers, particularly those who do not reside in the city, to offer them food and hotel accommodation.

In the residential subdivision near the airport, Norma Marolinya recalls having heard a “loud bang” but did not think that it was from the plane that landed, until they heard the police and ambulance sirens.

She said they went out of the house to check and saw the plane stuck on the runway, its left side hitting the grassy area.

She recalls there was a brief power outage and a heavy downpour when the plane landed.

Marolinya’s house is right beside the airport’s fence and around 150 hundred meters away from where the aircraft ditched.

In a radio interview with dxAB on Monday morning, SP01 Jun Narciso, one of the passengers, narrated he felt some turbulence while over Samal Island.

Narciso also noted fire on the left engine of the aircraft whose landing was “very rough” it made people panic.

The policeman said no one was hurt but many of the passengers were apparently traumatized.

At around 9 a.m. on Monday, hundreds of passengers milled outside the departure area.

Cebu Pacific employees were also seen attending to passengers to be ferried to the nearest airport in General Santos City, three hours away by bus, from where they would fly to their respective destinations. (see other story)

In its advisory as of 7 a.m. Monday, Cebu Pacific Air cancelled 20 round trip flights to and from this city.

DOTC relayed that Philippine Airlines (PAL), Airphil Express, Air Asia and Zest Air also cancelled all their flights to and from Davao.

As of 7 p.m. the aircraft was still stuck on the runway. (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)

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