HAARLEMMERLIEDE, Netherlands — The host of a popular Dutch television show was half-dozing with her head against the window of the Turkish Airlines jetliner when she was shocked awake by the sight of the ground looming up through the mist and drizzle.
There was no warning from the cockpit to brace for landing when the Boeing 737-800 with 134 people on board slammed into a muddy field Wednesday about 2 miles short of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, breaking into pieces.
The fuselage tore in two in front of the wings and the tail was ripped off. Despite the catastrophic impact, the wreckage did not burn and nearly everyone — 125 people — survived. The nine dead included both pilots.
TV host Jihad Alariachi was among those who walked away unscathed, scrambling out of the wreckage through emergency exits or cracks in the shattered fuselage.
"The ground was coming nearby, really nearby," Alariachi said. "Then we braked really hard … The nose went up. And then we bounced … with the nose aloft."
She and her sister escaped through an exit "onto the wing, and then we were in a field, walking around," she said, her nose bloodied and her shoes missing.
Survivor Mustafa Bahcec, his forehead bruised, recalled: "The back of the plane was completely gone. It was a blood bath, a terrible sight."
More than 50 people were injured, about half of them seriously. Authorities said the toll could have been far higher if the plane had not gone down in mud, which lessened the impact and helped avert a fire in the ruptured fuel tanks and lines on the underside of the fuselage.
In addition, having reached its destination, the plane would have used up most of its fuel, lessening the chances of a fuel-driven fire. Authorities would not say whether the plane sent out a distress call before the crash.
"The fact that the plane landed on a soft surface and that there was no fire helped keep the number of fatalities low," Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said, adding that it was "a miracle" there were not more casualties.
The head of the Dutch Safety Authority, Pieter van Vollenhoven, said the plane appeared to have lost speed before crashing and witnesses said it dropped from about 300 feet.
"You see that because of a lack of speed it literally fell out of the sky," he said.
Experts say crashes involving modern airliners are more survivable due to engineering advances that have resulted in strengthened structures and fire retardant technologies used for cabin seats and furnishings, as well as better emergency training of cockpit and cabin crews.
Investigators will explore a wide range of possible causes ranging from weather-related factors to insufficient fuel or loss, navigational errors, pilot fatigue or bird strikes. Experts say initial results could be made public soon because of the sophistication of the Boeing 737-800s black box, although the full report will likely not be ready before the end of the year.