EDMONTON - A passenger who was on an Air Canada Express flight that made an emergency landing in Edmonton knew something was wrong when he heard an explosion as the plane took off from Calgary.
"There was a loud explosion and then we took off and it was like bump, bump, bump," Ron Prochner said Friday.
As the Q400 turboprop climbed Thursday night en route to Grande Prairie. Alta., the pilot told the 71 passengers and three other crew that they had blown a tire, but he could still land the aircraft.
The flight was diverted to Edmonton because officials felt conditions were safer there. Prochner said people calmed down until the pilot started his approach into Edmonton International Airport.
As the plane descended to the runway passengers and crews braced for impact. When it touched down he said the landing gear on one side of the plane collapsed.
"There were sparks. I remember smoke. I remember the horrible smell like gasoline and oil burning," he said.
"A lot of people were really terrified. I know the young lady sitting beside me was scared. I wasn't scared until I looked at her. It was very frightening."
As the plane skidded across the runway something started to smash into the fuselage, Prochner said.
"There were some people that were injured from debris hitting the side of the plane. I think there was some flying glass. One fellow had a cut neck."
When the plane finally came to a halt some passengers whistled and hollered. Others tried to grab their carry-on luggage.
Prochner said the flight attendants calmed people down and directed them out of the damaged plane.
He said all of the passengers were out on the runway in about one minute as emergency vehicles surrounded the aircraft.
"That is where the flight crew did a very good job of just telling people to just leave that stuff and just get off of the plane."
Jazz Aviation LP said in a statement that four passengers on Flight 8481 were sent to hospital for treatment. Three were later released. One person remained in hospital Friday for observation.
Preliminary Transport Canada reports say the plane blew a tire as it took off from Calgary and debris from the tire forced the closure of a runway for 50 minutes. Another report says the plane was diverted to Edmonton, where its right main landing gear collapsed.
Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris Krepski said three investigators were at the airport. He said they would be interviewing the flight crew and air traffic controllers Friday.
"Our investigators are continuing to work on it and gather information, interview witnesses, examine the aircraft," he said from Gatineau, Que.
Pictures of the damaged plane on the airport tarmac appear to show the propeller blades on one of the engines missing.
Jazz said an extra flight was sent in late Thursday evening to take most of the passengers on to Grande Prairie, while those who remained in Edmonton overnight were expected to complete their trip Friday.
The airline said it's "very grateful" there were no severe injuries and that it's co-operating with the investigation.
— With files from John Cotter in Edmonton