ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Pegasus Airlines plane flying into Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport skidded off the end of a wet runway and broke into three pieces after landing on Wednesday, killing three people and injuring 179, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
The three had died in hospital, with 179 of the 183 aboard wounded, Koca told reporters in the eastern province of Van.
The wounded were being treated at 18 nearby hospitals, Ali Yerlikaya, the governor of Istanbul, had said earlier, adding that the plane was carrying 177 passengers and six crew from the western province of Izmir.
“The plane could not hold on the runway due to poor weather conditions and skidded for around 50 to 60 metres,” Yerlikaya told reporters at the airport.
The Boeing 737-86J split into three pieces after what Yerlikaya said was a drop of around 30 to 40 metres (98 to 131 ft) at the end of the runway. Footage showed the plane landing and continuing at a high speed off the runway.
Flights had been diverted to Istanbul Airport while the runway at Sabiha Gokcen was closed, Transport Minister Cahit Turhan said.
However, Sabiha Gokcen Airport announced the runway was reopening from 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) and its website showed flights had resumed on Thursday morning.
Pegasus said in a statement the plane had gone off the runway and passengers were evacuated, but a company spokeswoman gave no further details.
Broadcaster NTV said the plane had attempted to land in heavy tailwinds despite the previous two flights having held off because of the wind.
Television footage showed the plane’s fuselage, as well as a section near the tail, had broken off.
Passengers had been led out as the plane lay on a patch of grass beside the runway. Dozens of emergency response personnel escorted passengers off before carrying them away on stretchers.
Earlier footage showed part of the exterior of the plane had caught fire, which state media said firefighters had put out.
Turkish Airlines had said it had cancelled flights in and out of Sabiha Gokcen for the day on Wednesday.
Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen, Ezgi Erkoyun and Daren Butler in Istanbul, Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Clarence Fernandez