Man-Made Disasters Jumbo-Jet Collision in the Canary Islands Part 2

About the jumbo-jet collision in the Canary Islands in 1977, history and account of the disaster, death, and destruction.

NATURAL AND MAN-MADE DISASTERS

COLLISION OF THE JUMBO JETS

In the seconds preceding the collision, the Pan Am pilots, still on the runway, saw the KLM's lights in the fog. At first they thought the KLM was merely standing at the end of the runway. Too late they realized that the massive aircraft was bearing down on them. Quickly the Pan Am crew boosted their engines and attempted to swerve to the left. With only seconds to react, the KLM pilot pulled up the nose of his 747 in a desperate effort to clear the Pan Am jet, but time had already run out.

The KLM smashed the Pan Am at midship, shearing the top off, destroying the first-class lounge, and starting a fire. After a second in the air, the KLM returned to the ground and bounced down the runway. Some 500 yd. beyond the Pan Am 747, it exploded, killing all 248 on board. Of the passengers on board the Pan Am jumbo, 332 eventually died, while 64 survived.

Aftermath: Spanish, Dutch, and U.S. investigators have yet to release to the public reports detailing the official cause of the disaster. In the meantime, several of the 64 survivors continue to nurse burns and other injuries suffered in the collision.

The disaster has led to hundreds of lawsuits. About 100 insurance claims have been settled out of court, but just as many lawsuits are pending, and some observers estimate settlements could ultimately total as much as $240 million. For the time being, KLM's insurers are contributing 40% of the settlement fund, Pan Am's insurers are contributing 30%, the airport is contributing 20%, and Boeing, the manufacturer of the 747s, is contributing 10%.

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