20 Israelis Escape Thai Crash Unhurt

A pilot was killed and at least seven passengers were injured when a passenger plane slid off a runway into an abandoned control tower on the Thai island of Koh Samui yesterday.

Twenty Israelis were on the plane, but none were injured.

The Bangkok Airways plane collided with the tower, currently being used as a fire station, after swerving from the runway while trying to land in heavy rain. The aircraft was carrying 68 passengers and four crew members from the Thai resort of Krabi.

Gal Mazeh, one of the Israelis on the flight, told Haaretz, "The plane was rocking during the flight. A minute or two before landing the plane shook, and we felt the weather change."

Mazeh said a sudden gust of wind and rain hit the aircraft. "A minute before landing we felt the plane move unnaturally. The plane made too strong a landing, and started swerving off the runway," he said.

The crash comes during the peak of Israelis' international travel season, and is likely to dent travel to Thailand. The most recent Israel Airports Authority report found that more than 8,000 Israelis flew to the country last year, a drop of nearly 2,000 from the year before.

Yesterday's accident brought back memories of the September 2007 crash of a One-Two Go plane, which killed 90 passengers - including several Israelis - on the Thai island of Phuket. The plane tried to land in inclement weather, slid on the runway and broke into two parts.