Tokyo airport crash: Australian travellers witness plane explode on tarmac

Australians who were at Tokyo Airport when a plane exploded into flames as it landed have described the moment they watched the disaster unfold through the terminal windows.

A blinding flash of light followed by a trail of orange flames were the first signs Japan Airlines flight 516 had collided with a coast guard plane on the tarmac of Haneda Airport on Tuesday evening.

Twelve Australians were on board the flight and incredibly, all 379 passengers safely evacuated before the plane was overcome by fire.

Five people on board the coast guard plane were killed.

Wollongong resident Graham Miller and his daughter Ivy were in a queue waiting to board another Japan Airlines flight when they saw a headline flash across a television.

“Half our plane had actually boarded and we were just sitting there and the text on the bottom of the TV started rolling saying: Japanese Airlines flight on fire,” he told Today on Thursday.

“We had a look out the window and could see the fire out on the runway.

“Then some of the footage and vision came up and it was horrible to see.”

He said the moments that followed were “very confronting” as travellers inside the terminal scrambled to work out what was happening, but said surprisingly passengers did not descend into chaos and panic.

“Everyone was just a bit kind of confused … and we weren’t really told anything for a long while,” Ms Miller added.

“Everyone was still pretty calm considering.”

Lukas Sherwin and Fiona Wu had just arrived at the airport when they were told they all the check-in desks were closed.

“A lady said ‘there is a fire on the runway’, and told us to sit down,” Mr Sherwin told Sunrise on Thursday.

“We saw people looking out the window, and I go up and I can see a fire in the dark of the night out there on the runway.”

Ms Wu described it as a “huge blaze” in the distance and remembers seeing “all the black and grey smoke go up in the air”.

“My first thought was, ‘that’s not a little fire’ … the entire plane was on fire. It was terrifying,” she said.

Their airline started cancelling flights and they were left with nothing to do but wait for a number of hours for new information.

“It was kind of a nerve-racking feeling to be there around other passengers who also didn’t know exactly what was going on,” Ms Wu said.

Flights have since returned to normal, with the Australians who saw the commotion from the airport already back at home.

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