TACA Airlines Crash in Honduras -- Five Dead; At Least 65 Injured
On Friday, May 30, 2008 at approximately 10 AM, an Airbus A-320 owned by Central America’s GRUPO TACA Airline, skidded off a Toncontin International Airport runway in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. Five people were killed and at least 65 others were injured. Three passengers injured in this crash have hired Baum Hedlund to represent them in this matter.
The flight originated in Los Angeles, connected in San Salvador and was scheduled to continue to Miami after the stop in Tegucigalpa. There were 136 individuals on board, including passengers, active crew, and several off-duty TACA crew members.
A first landing attempt was aborted due to poor visibility resulting from a thick cloud cover. During the second landing, the plane overshot the runway, touching down in the middle instead of at the beginning. The aircraft skidded out of control and plummeted down a 66 foot embankment, plowing through a metal fence, before crashing onto a busy street and breaking into three pieces. Fuel gushed from the wreckage as officials quickly began hosing down the 6 passenger vehicles which were struck by the plane.
Our law firm has been handling aviation accident cases for more than 20 years, representing over 500 victims in over 180 accidents, including 75 commercial aviation accidents. We represented five victims of the 1993 Taca International Airlines Flight 510 accident on April 6, 1993 in Guatemala. TACA International Airlines is part of an alliance of Latin American airlines formed under the name GRUPO TACA consisting of airlines from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras.
The pilot in the May 24, 2008 Honduras crash, Salvadoran Cesare D'Antonio, did not survive. He had worked for Taca since 1993. Janneth Shantall, the wife of Brazilian Ambassador Brian Michael Fraser Neele, was also killed; as were two Honduran university students who were in one of the three cars crushed under the severed plane. Another passenger, Nicaraguan Harry Brautigam, president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, died of heart failure.
Although it is believed that adverse weather conditions may have contributed to this disaster, Toncontin is considered one of the most dangerous international airports in the world. The mountainous terrain necessitates a very steep approach, and much of the navigation equipment is outdated. High altitudes require a longer runway for landings and takeoffs than is needed at sea level; however, the Toncontin runway is less than 5,300 feet in length -- shorter than those of many smaller municipal airports.
President Manuel Zelaya has closed the airport to all traffic except small aircraft and helicopters. Larger jets will instead operate from the Palmerola airport, also known as the Soto Cano base, located 30 miles to the north. Palmerola has the best runway in Honduras -- 8,850 feet long and 165 feet wide -- and was used by the United States during the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
Baum Hedlund handled the 1993 TACA accident after a flight heading to Los Angeles crashed during the Guatemala City connection.