Our gods are looking after us: Thai air crash victim

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Phuket, Thailand, Sep16: It was meant to be a short break on a paradise isle in southern Thailand. Instead, Canadian waitress Millie Furlong and her Thai boyfriend are counting their blessings having walked away virtually unscathed from a plane crash that killed 88 people on the resort island of Phuket. Speaking to the sources at hospital hours after the crash, the 23-year-old from British Colombia said her flight left Bangkok in heavy rain but ''it was the rainy season so we weren't surprised''.

As they approached the northwest of the Andaman sea island, however, she looked out of the window to see a tropical downpour lashing the coastal airstrip -- and knew something was wrong.

''I've never landed in such conditions before,'' she said. ''I saw trees bending over.'' The next moments are confusion. The pilot attempted to land and then appears to have tried to abort.

''I'm not sure whether we landed but the pilot tried to bring the plane back up. He started to turn right and made a sharp turn right and then the plane went into the embankment.

''Everything fell out of the top -- the oxygen masks, the luggage, everything,'' she said. ''I saw the grass and knew we were going to crash. It was very quick.

''I was in row 23. I didn't know how much of the plane in front of us was left. The guy in front of us was in flames.

''The guy behind me was kicking at the window. He kept kicking and kicking the window or the door -- whatever it was -- but it wasn't loosening.

''If it hadn't opened we would have died. It was dark and smoky. I felt like I was going to pass out,'' said Furlong, one of 42 being treated in hospital.

She and her boyfriend were hardly scratched. Other survivors at the hospital -- where some casualties of the December 2004 tsunami were treated -- were heavily bandaged. Five were listed as critical, with burns to 60 percent of their bodies.

Having managed to get out of the shattered fuselage, Furlong said she slid down the wing to the ground where shell-shocked survivors stood rooted to the spot, too confused to run away.

''There were flames in front of me and beside me,'' she said. ''The smell was like chemicals. Quite a few minutes after, I heard a girl screaming: 'My boyfriend, my boyfriend'. I kept waiting for people to come out but there weren't many.

''People weren't really running. They were just standing there. It was unbelievable. The girls were mostly crying and one guy was crying uncontrollably. We didn't see many bodies. Most of the bodies were in the plane.

''My boyfriend is alright. When we both got out -- he's Buddhist and I'm Christian -- and we both said 'Our gods are looking after us'.''


Reuters>

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