'We All Thought We Would Die'

A passenger from the Air France jetliner that skidded off a runway in Toronto before breaking into pieces and catching fire says panicked passengers thought they would die. Instead, all of them got out in what he calls a miracle.

Olivier Dubos was among the 309 people on the Air France Airbus A340 arriving from Paris at Pearson International Airport in a thunderstorm when it skidded off the runway and into a ravine, then broke into pieces.

Everyone was safely evacuated, moments before flames roared out of control. Dozens suffered only minor injuries.


The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Wednesday he was sitting in the very back of the plane and, "When the plane landed, we thought that everything was fine. Just we had an electrical issue. The lights went off, like, a minute before landing. And then the plane landed normally for maybe 10 seconds. And then after that, the disaster happened.

"We went off (the run)way. And we were really going very, very fast. And the plane started to shake everywhere. And we could see fire, flames outside."

Passengers were "completely panicking and stressed. We were actually trying to hold (onto) our seats. And at that moment, we all thought that we would die, really. We thought we would just crash, blow up.

"And then finally, the plane stopped in the ravine. That's where we thought that maybe we had an opportunity to escape from the plane."

When the plane stopped, says Dubos, "We all, like, as a natural reflex, we got up. And the crew was starting to open the emergency exits. On the left side of the plane, there was too much fire, too many flames, so that we could not open up. But on the right side, at the end of the plane, they did open it. And then I was, like, among the first ones to be at the door, and I was telling the crew, and they were saying to me, 'So, OK, we go. Let's go. Jump.' And we were among the first ones to jump."

Though panicked, "We were all really thinking about one thing, to get out of here, to jump and run as fast as we could. We could see flames, fires in the surroundings next to the emergency exits. And we all thought that we would blow up.

"So we jumped, and we were running as fast as we could from the plane in the trees, where the grass is like a meter high. And we were all trying to help each other, to run fast, as fast as we could."

As he looks back, Dubos realizes how fortunate he and his fellow passengers are: "For me, it's a miracle. It's a miracle because I think we didn't even realize that the plane was in such a dramatic condition. It's just incredible that we all managed to get out of the plane, that nobody got killed. It's a miracle. It's really a miracle.

"It's very frightening when we look back at the reports, the pictures, etc. we just can't believe what happened."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for