BA Plane Crashes at Heathrow

LONDON -- A British Airways passenger jet crash landed Thursday at Heathrow Airport, tearing its underbelly, damaging its wings and skidding to a halt before emergency chutes deployed. All 152 passengers and crew escaped safely, but three suffered injuries.

Fire trucks surrounded the Boeing 777, which had taken off from Beijing, after it landed at 12:42 p.m. The plane's wheels appeared to collapse as it came down in the grass in front of the airport's southern runway, witness John Rowland told the BBC.

"It crashed into the runway, debris was flying everywhere, there was an enormous bang and it skidded sideways," he said.

The impact tore the undercarriage and damaged both wings.

The accident occurred just before a plane carrying British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and a delegation of business leaders, including Virgin chairman Richard Branson, was about to depart for China.

The prime minister's plane was about a kilometer away and not involved, but those onboard could see the incident.

Emergency workers surrounded the plane and firefighters laid down fire retardant foam as a precaution as the 16-member crew evacuated passengers on inflatable chutes.

"We are very proud of the way our crew safely evacuated all 136 passengers on board with only three minor injuries," British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh said.