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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At Least 74 Dead in Thai Plane Crash

BANGKOK, Thailand -- A passenger plane carrying many foreign tourists crashed in heavy rain Sunday on Thailand's tourist island of Phuket, killing at least 74 people and injuring 42, officials said.

Phuket's Deputy Governor Worapot Ratthaseema said he did not immediately know many foreigners died, but the dead included Irish, Israeli, Australian and British passengers.

Officials at the scene said the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 crashed in a downpour, skidded off the runaway and broke into two parts. Survivors described a chaotic situation, trying to escape from windows as fires and smoke consumed the plane.

The budget One-Two-Go Airlines domestic flight OG269 was carrying 123 passengers and seven crew members to Phuket from Bangkok, said Monrudee Gettuphan, vice president of corporate communications for the Air Transport Authority of Thailand.

Those on board included 78 foreigners, Monrudee said.

Jikarat Wongtawan, a staffer at Bangkok Phuket Hospital, said 32 passengers were at the hospital and 24 of them were foreigners. He said they included eight Britons, five Germans, five Iranians, two Israelis and at least one Australian, Irish and Canadian passenger.

The other injured foreigners were at Phuket International Hospital.

Worapot said officials had counted at least 74 bodies, which have been laid out in an airport building.

"At least 74 people have been confirmed dead, and 42 have been hospitalized," Worapot said. He said the remaining passengers were still missing.

Local television reports showed parts of the twisted and smoking plane sitting off to the side of the runaway. Searchers in masks converged on the plane, carrying away bodies wrapped in sheets.

Distraught relatives had also begun arriving at the airport, awaiting news of their loved ones, local media reported.

Survivors taken to local hospitals described a horrific scene as they escaped the burning plane.

"I saw passengers engulfed in fire as I stepped over them on the way out of the plane," said survivor Parinwit Chusaeng on the Nation TV channel. "I was afraid that the airplane was going to explode, so I ran away."

Parinwit said he looked back and saw fires raging in the front and back of the plane. "I saw the plane in flames, and there was a lot of smoke," he said.

Officials said it was too early to establish the cause of the crash, but some said the weather was likely a factor.

"The visibility was poor as the pilot attempted to land. He decided to make a go-around, but the plane lost balance and crashed," said Chaisak Angsuwan, director general of the Air Transport Authority of Thailand. "It was torn into two parts."

An Irish survivor, identified only as Sean, told of being badly burned on his arms, legs and back as he escaped the flames. Speaking to TITV from a Phuket hospital, he said he had sensed early on that there was a problem.

"You could tell when it was landing it was in trouble," he said. "It was making a noise, this bang."

One-Two-Go Airlines is one of several budget airlines started up in the past few years after Thailand's airline sector was liberalized. It started operations in December 2003 and is the domestic subsidiary of Orient-Thai Airlines, a low-cost regional carrier based in Thailand.

The crash is the country's deadliest aviation accident since Dec. 11, 1998, when 101 people were killed after a Thai Airways plane crashed while trying to land in heavy rain at Surat Thani, 530 kilometers south of Bangkok. Forty-five people survived.