At least three people died and 179 were injured after a passenger plane skidded off the runway at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport on Wednesday, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported.
The accident took place around 6:30 p.m. local time (1530 UTC). The passenger plane, a Boeing 737, split into three pieces and veered onto a patch of grass next to the runway, in what Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan called a "rough landing."
One of aircraft's wings also caught fire, but the blaze was later extinguished. Passengers had to exit through cracks in the smashed plane.
Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said there were 177 passengers and six staff on board the plane, which had been flying back to Istanbul from the western city of Izmir.
"The plane could not hold on the runway due to poor weather conditions and skidded for around 50-60 meters," Yerlikaya told reporters at the airport. Footage showed the plane landing and continuing to skid at a high speed off the runway.
"We are deeply saddened ... [but] we are very happy that we escaped a greater accident," he said, adding that the plane could have burst into flames.
Emergency response teams took the wounded passengers to 18 different hospitals in the area, Yerlikaya added.
Three of the injured required surgery and two others were in intensive care, but none of their lives were thought to be in danger, Health Minister Koca said.
Firefighters, emergency personnel respond
The plane belonged to Turkish budget provider Pegasus Airlines. Its nose was completely smashed and the cockpit had turned over. Both pilots were among the injured, though Yerlikaya said they were in good condition.
Television footage showed serious damage to the fuselage, with passengers seen exiting via one of the wings. Emergency personnel were seen taking others passengers out of the plane and carrying them away on stretchers.
Firefighters were also immediately sent to the scene.
The airport were the crash occured was shut down, with all flights redirected to Istanbul's main airport.
In January, all flights were suspended fom Sabiha Gokcen airport after a Pegasus plane skidded off the runway because of bad weather. The plane, which had arrived from Sharjah, was carrying 164 passengers, all of whom were safely evacuated.
In 2018, another Pegasus-flown Boeing 737 slid off the runway at Trabzon airport and ended hanging off a cliff just several meters from the Black Sea.