LISBON, Portugal -- Investigators were trying to determine Tuesday whether a strong gust of wind may have caused a Dutch jetliner to crash while trying to land in southern Portugal, killing 54 of the 340 people aboard.
Portuguese television station RTP reported winds had been gusting at up to 22 mph when the plane was making its final approach at Faro Airport Monday morning, and said investigators were looking into the theory that a gust of wind might have caused the accident.
'The last 30 minutes on board were awful, the plane shook and bumped in the heavy winds,' surviving passenger Puck Ovelte told Dutch radio. 'As the pilot tried to land, suddenly the plane went up again.
'We circled once more and then we landed, but one wing touched the ground. ... Then there was an explosion and we ran,' Ovelte said.
The Martinair DC-10 broke in two and exploded into flames. The front section remained mostly intact but the rear section was destroyed by a fireball.
The plane was carrying 327 vacationers and a crew of 13 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to the popular Algarve coast in southern Portugal for the Christmas holidays.
Two teams of investigators -- one from Portugal and one from Holland -- were examining the burned wreckage of the 15-year-old McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and two representatives from McDonnell Douglas Corp. also were called to the scene to take part in the investigation, an airport spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman said investigators also had sent the two parts of the craft's 'black box' flight recorder to experts who could monitor conversations between the jetliner's crew and the Faro control tower.
The investigators also were trying to identify the 54 people killed in the crash. Martinair gave investigators a passenger list that does not fully match the people on board, Internal Administration Ministry spokeswoman Diana Ulrich said.
Leo Buys, a Martinair spokesman at the airline's headquarters at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, said the plane had recently been completely inspected for safety because it was soon to be sold to the Dutch Air Force.
Martinair, one of the largest charter companies in northern Europe with frequent flights to vacation spots, sent five of its top executives to Portugal to investigate the crash.
It was the first major accident at Faro Airport, which last year handled 3.3 million passengers.