Sunday, October 20, 2019

Calgary woman recounts ‘terrifying’ landing of Biman plane in Yangon

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2019-05-15 10:53:49 BdST

Leya Russell, a Canadian national, has suffered two broken vertebrae after a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight crashed upon landing at Myanmar's Yangon Airport last week, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Network (CBC).

Her passport was taken from her following the accident and it took hours before she was given proper medical attention, she told CBC News.

On May 8, a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 aircraft of the flag carrier from Dhaka skidded off the runway after attempting to land amid bad weather in Yangon.

Russel was one of 35 people on board the Biman flight 060, including 29 passengers, four cabin crew, two ground engineers, and the pilot. At least 18 passengers were injured and subsequently admitted to two hospitals in Yangon for treatment.

Russell had just finished a three-week assignment with Photographers Without Borders, photographing therapists working with people with disabilities through a non-profit in rural Bangladesh, according to CBC News.

She had planned to vacation for three days in Myanmar before returning home to Calgary.

The first indications that something might be amiss about the flight were that it had been delayed for hours without an explanation, she said, adding that the plane's wheels made an odd sound when it eventually took off.

Russell slept through the flight, but woke up in time to film the landing from her seat near the wing.

"They come over the intercom and say, 'Oh, we're going to have some turbulence,'" she told CBC News.

The plane shot straight back up in the air just as it began to land, said Russell. After four failed attempts to land, the pilot eventually told passengers over the intercom that the weather kept preventing the plane from touching down, she added.

According to the photographer, however, there was no turbulence and no visible sign of severe weather.

When the plane finally touched down, Russell immediately began applauding, thinking the journey was over.

"As soon as the wheels hit the ground … the plane shoots straight up and then slams straight down, and the wing comes off and the wheel comes off. I got crushed between the luggage compartment and the seat," she is quoted as saying.

Russell said other passengers were bleeding. She looked around for help and spotted the stewardess, immobilized, sitting a few seats behind her and screaming "fire" over and over, the CBC reports.

She said she later learned the woman had a serious spinal injury.

Leya Russell was taken to hospital in Bangkok in the plane pictured here after her back was broken when a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 had a rough landing in Myanmar on May 8.  Photo via CBC News website.

Leya Russell was taken to hospital in Bangkok in the plane pictured here after her back was broken when a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 had a rough landing in Myanmar on May 8.  Photo via CBC News website.

Passengers pulled together to open the doors and those who were able to walk, including Russell, made their way along a field before they were taken by bus to arrivals and left there for about 40 minutes without any communication.

The aircraft's fuselage had broken in at least two spots while its wings had fallen apart.

At this point, Russell knew she was hurt, she told CBC News. But it wasn't until much later that she found out that she had broken two vertebrae and compressed her spine, and suffered a serious concussion.

"It's so scary to be so hurt and not know anybody," she said.

Eventually, she was taken by ambulance to one hospital, then another.

"It is terrifying to be treated so roughly like they put me in the ambulances. They didn't strap me down. I'm just sliding around. I'm in extreme pain. I grabbed the woman and I'm like, 'Hold me, hold me.' Nobody can understand," she said. "I've broken my back. I can't move."

Russell said staff from the Canadian Embassy arrived and got her a translator and a CT scan, at which point they realized the extent of her injuries.

The Canadian Embassy retrieved her passport and arranged for her to be moved to Bangkok 12 hours later.

But another passenger with an injured spine was not as fortunate as Russell, missing the medical evacuation as he failed to get his Australian passport back in time, she said.