DORAL – A 19-year-old Doral woman who was aboardfrom Santo Domingo when the landing gear on the nose of the plane collapsed says she briefly thought that she might not survive this incident.
Paola Garcia told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that she was sitting in seat number 27-D by an emergency door when the incident happened on Tuesday and she says she heard no warning from anyone and was caught off guard as the plane had a rough landing at Miami International Airport.
Garcia vividly remembers what happened when the plane skidded down the runway before catching fire.
She saw the fire and the smoke from the MD-82 jetliner that was carrying 130 passengers and a crew of 10.
“It was horrible,” she said. “I started crying and I called my dad and I couldn’t breathe. He said, breathe, breathe, breathe. I started praying. I said this is my last chance, my last moment on earth. That’s what I thought.”
Garcia said, “When the pilot tried to land the plane I heard a weird noise. Then the plane started moving from side to side and we thought it was going to roll over. It starts bumping and bumping. The right turbine caught on fire.”
“Then, it crashes and all the wheels broke. The rear of the plane crashed on the floor and all the windows broke. I was alone. I was traveling alone coming back from visiting my relatives in Venezuela and had stopped in Santo Domingo and I started hugging the person next to me. When I opened my eyes all of the windows were broken.”
Garcia used her cell phone to record some video and another passenger’s phone captured the chaotic moments after the landing.
She said, “The persons up-front started running and running to the back because the emergency door up front did not open. It could not open. The only emergency door working was in back. So, the people in front needed to go to the back to get out. When I looked around I saw smoke and fire.”
She said, “I also did not have my shoes. When this happened. I didn’t have any stuff, so I left all my stuff including my passport, my money, all of my cards, and ID and driver’s license on the airplane.”
“Last night, I could not sleep because I was so nervous.”
Three passengers suffered minor injuries and were taken to Jackson West Medical Center and were released.
Emergency crews contained the fire and the fuel spillage.
Garcia said she had gone to Caracas to visit her mother, step-father and two brothers and had been there for six days and was coming home to Doral after stopping in Santo Domingo.
She said she has flown on a lot of airplanes before and said nothing like this incident has ever happened to her before.
She said she might need some counseling after this latest incident.
Garcia said, “I think this is a sign from God that with all the people there we have to do something special in this world. That’s why we survived. This was a terrifying experience.”