British airport closed after small jet transporting transplant organ crashes

All flights in and out of Birmingham Airport have been diverted or suspended after a business jet carrying an organ for transplantation crashed on approach to the airport in Birmingham, England, during heavy fog. Two people were injured in the incident, one seriously. A spokesperson for the airport said: “We can confirm that an incident has occurred involving a private Cessna aircraft. The incident occurred on arrival into the airport and the emergency services are in attendance.”

West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Matt Markham confirmed that the aircraft was carrying an organ for transplantation, but said that it was undamaged in the accident and it had been taken from the aircraft. Later reports suggested that the liver had been transported to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where the operation was being carried out.

A Cessna Citation 501 aircraft similar to the aircraft involved in the crash at Birmingham Airport, Birmingham, England. Reports suggested that smoke was seen rising from the aircraft, which came down at the end of the runway. Image: Alan Radecki.

Inspector Markham that the police were “alerted to what was described as a ‘hard landing’ at the airport” at approximately 3:35 pm local time, and pledged to carry out a “thorough investigation” into the cause of the accident. He said: “It would appear the aircraft came down on landing and soon after there was a small fire within the aircraft. There were two casualties on board the plane. One we believe is in serious condition and has been airlifted to hospital; and the second one has been taken to hospital but with less significant injuries.”

The aircraft was ‘leaning to one side’

A witness, who was playing golf near the runway when the crash occurred, said that the aircraft was on fire and was “leaning to one side” as it was on approach to the airport. “As it was coming to land [the aircraft] was on fire and as it approached the runway it looked like it was leaning to one side slightly,” he said. “Then, once it hit the runway there were sort of flames alongside the runway then it broke into a big fireball.”

Another eyewitness said that she saw two fire engines on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the crash; a spokesperson for the West Midlands Ambulance Service added that paramedics were at the site of the accident. Reports suggested that the aircraft came to a halt to the right of the runway, and smoke was seen rising from the aeroplane. Images of the airport taken around the time of the incident showed that the airport was shrouded in thick fog.

‘A horrible noise’

Speaking to a local radio station, an airport worker who identified himself only as Alan, said that he heard “a horrible noise”, before the aircraft “burst into flames with a trail of flames behind it.” He added: “My guess is that some part of the wheels had hit the run way then some other part of it hit the outside. When I ran over to the plane all I could see was the tail and the rest was in flames. I ran towards it but then I realised it could have exploded. It wasn’t on fire in the air just as it hit the ground. I saw two people trying to get out of the plane running away.”

Sky News reported that the aircraft was approaching the runway at an “odd angle”, before it “skidded” and caught fire. The spokesperson for Birmingham Airport added: “The airport is currently closed. If you are due to travel to the airport this evening, please contact your airline for further guidance and do not come to the airport at this time. No further information is available at the moment.”


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