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Runway miracle as all but one survive

IN WHAT'S been dubbed a miracle, all but one of the holidaymakers on board this Boeing 737 walked away from the devastating crash which tore it apart.

The plane was ripped asunder as it slid onto the runway on a Caribbean island.

Incredibly, only one of the 131 people on board died.

The plane hit short of the runway on Colombia's San Andres Island and skidded on its belly as the fuselage fractured and bits of landing gear and at least one engine were ripped off.

The jet wound up on one end of the runway, crumpled and in pieces, as passengers scrambled or were helped to safety.

Of the 125 passengers and six crew members aboard the Aires airline jet, the only one killed was a 68-year-old woman, Amar Fernandez de Barreto.

Officials were investigating a range of possible causes and looking into reports that Aires Flight 8520 was hit by lightning before the crash on the resort island, said Col David Barrero of the Colombian air force.

"You can't speculate. Lightning? A gust of wind? The investigation will say," Barrero said. "The pilot's skill kept the plane from colliding with the airport."

Officials said 119 people were treated or checked at clinics and five of them were seriously injured.

Aviation experts said it was too early in the investigation to speculate about what caused the accident.

At this stage in the probe, "you don't exclude any possibility, but investigators will be looking closely at the weather," said William Voss, CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation.

However, he added: "You certainly don't expect to see catastrophic damage to an aircraft due to lightning."