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Jet passengers feared they would die during crash landing

November 2, 2011 |  5:20 am

A LOT Polish airline skids down a Warsaw runway after its landing gear failed to deploy
Passengers on a jet that originated in Newark, N.J., and made a dramatic crash landing in Warsaw said they were praying, crying and preparing to die as the Boeing 767 was forced to land on its belly after its wheels failed to deploy.

None of the 220 passengers and 11 crew members on board -- many of them from the New York area -- were injured in Tuesday's incident, which some compared to the remarkable landing of a jet in New York's Hudson River in 2009 after geese sucked into its engines disabled the plane.

"I'm sure everyone remembered the miracle on the Hudson ... we had our miracle in Warsaw," Agnes Kowalik, whose mother was on the LOT airlines flight, told New York's ABC affiliate, WABC. 

"We were waiting for a crash, and we waited and waited and waited -- and thank God it never happened," Greg Cohen, a passenger from Livingston, N.J., said, according to the Associated Press. "It was a very lucky flight, a very, very great pilot. We are very fortunate."

"I started to cry, and the men around me were also crying," another passenger, Krystyna Dabrowska, told reporters at Warsaw's airport who interviewed shaken people after they exited the jet by sliding down the emergency chutes. "I thought that was the end of me."

Sparks flew and smoke billowed from beneath the jet as it skidded along the runway, which had been coated with flame-resistant foam in preparation for the landing.

According to LOT President Marcin Pirog, the pilot, Tadeusz Wrona, realized that he had a problem with his landing gear shortly after leaving Newark's Liberty Airport on Monday night. He flew on to Warsaw and then circled for about an hour to burn off fuel and reduce the chance of fire when he landed.

The touchdown was so smooth that some passengers told reporters they thought the landing gear had deployed. They said they knew better when they saw the sparks and black smoke out the jet's windows as it roared down the runway.

The cause of the incident is under investigation. Tens of thousands of people, meanwhile, have registered as fans of the captain on various Facebook pages dedicated to him. Even if you don't read Polish, it's not difficult to figure out that "Kapitan" Wrona has plenty of fans.

 

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-- Tina Susman in New York

Photo: A LOT Polish airline skids down a Warsaw runway after its landing gear failed to deploy. Credit: Jacek Moczydlowski / EPA

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