Tires plane crash victims “were alive” when they hit the ground, says eyewitness

The full horror of yesterday’s plane crash that killed all four people on board as well as a Portuguese truck driver on the ground has been splashed over this morning’s newspapers with shocking new details.

At least some of the people on board the Piper PA-31 craft were alive when it crashed to earth, hitting a delivery truck at the back of Tires’ Lidl supermarket, on the outskirts of Cascais.

Fifty-four-year-old grandmother Maria de Fátima Rosa – whose home was completely destroyed in the disaster – said she heard their screams.

“They didn’t die straight away”, she told tabloid Correio da Manhã. “I still have their screams in my head”.

Rosa was in the back yard with her two-year-old grandson when the plane came down in the loading area behind Lidl shortly before midday.

Her son Pedro told journalists that it was a miracle that the two escaped unharmed. Had his mother not picked up the child and run, the pair would almost certainly have been burnt in the fire that ignited shortly afterwards.

Reports since the accident have gone a long way to explaining the course of the tragedy now under investigation by the PJ (judicial police) office of air accident investigation and prevention.

A garbled and barely audible recording of the last communication between the pilot and Tires’ airport control tower shortly after the plane took off does not reveal the nature of the technical problem that prompted the tragedy, but eyewitness accounts describe a “strange metallic noise” made by the plane’s engine as it launched into its flight from nearby Tires airport.

This was followed by smoke coming out of one of the engines and “various pirouettes” that alerted people on the ground to the fact that disaster was on the way.

Said householder Ana Rodrigues, the plane “was going round and round. I thought it was going to fall into my backyard. I grabbed the children and ran into the house”.

Shoppers and staff inside Lidl were only aware of the horror once the plane hit the lorry, purportedly owned by a firm in the Algarve.

“There was a huge noise”, said local householder Almeirinda Ferreira. “People shouted “run”. I never imagined anything like this could happen”.

Once the plane hit, there were three explosions. It was in these explosions that Maria Rosa believes the screaming passengers will have died.

Today, the name of the 69-year-old pilot – Swiss millionaire and owner of Symbios Orthopaedics Jean Plé – is known, but the identities of his French companions have yet to be released.

The identity of the driver employed by Cargaquatro, based in Faro, is also still under wraps – although CM suggests he was 40 years old and at the back of the truck when the Piper plane came down.

Nine people have been made homeless as a result of the tragedy, and four were treated for smoke inhalation.

As we reported yesterday, the plane was on its way back to Marseille (France) – having arrived at Tires on Good Friday (click here).

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