WALLER COUNTY, Texas — They're calling it the miracle on the runway: 21 people walked away from a fiery plane crash west of Houston Tuesday morning. The plane burst into a fireball after it slammed through a fence and across a road before crashing into trees and power poles.
One passenger said the plane was already on fire when they jumped down the emergency exit slides.
“Things were flying around, and when it finally came to a stop, they just said, 'Get out, get out,' because we thought it was going to explode," the passenger said.
They said the plane was so hot, it singed the hair on their hands.
"I knew something was wrong and then a couple of seconds later, we saw the fireball,” said Andrew Perry, Executive Director of Houston Executive Airport.
He was the first one on the scene in Waller County.
"Being in aviation for very long, your heart sinks but your training catches up and you just want to get there to see if you can help," Perry said.
Amazingly, there were only minor injuries.
“This is one of those miraculous crashes," aviation expert Josh Verde said.
He said clues, like heavy skid marks, point to a last-second decision by the pilots to abort during takeoff.
"Aborting a takeoff is actually one of the most highly-trained maneuvers of any pilots flying large aircraft, jet aircraft in the simulator," Verde said. "We call them and one V1 cuts.”
As to what went wrong on the plane owned by Houston developer J. Alan Kent, here’s what the passenger said.
“One pilot pulled up... and it (the plane) wouldn’t go up, and then the other one tried, this is what the pilots told me, it wouldn’t go up," the passenger said. "So, they tried to stop but there just wasn’t enough runway left."
Aviation records show the plane was previously owned by Fynn Air, a commercial airline in Europe.
“It really is, I mean it’s an airliner," Verde said.
And because of that, it has extra safety equipment, like exit slides, and that likely saved precious time when seconds mattered.
We’re told the NTSB will be on scene Wednesday to start its investigation as to what exactly went wrong. In a statement, the owner of the plane said he's grateful everyone is OK.