Seated on the last row of the plane, Muhammed Junaid sensed something was amiss when Air India Express flight IX 1344 from Dubai was jerked around by strong winds as it approached the southern Indian city of Kozhikode late on Friday.
After an aborted attempt, the aircraft swung around and touched down on the runway, said Junaid, who like many others onboard worked in the Middle East but was forced to return home when his salary halved because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instead of slowing down, Junaid said, the Boeing-737 appeared to pick up speed, overshooting the runway slickened by heavy rains, hurtling down a sharp slope and breaking in two.
"All these things happened in 15 seconds," he told Reuters by phone yesterday.
Eighteen of the 190 passengers and crew, including both pilots, died, officials said, in India's worst passenger aircraft accident since 2010. Sixteen people were severely injured.
But Junaid and several other passengers, seated at the back of the aircraft, walked away from the wreckage at Calicut International Airport near Kozhikode almost unscathed.
By midnight, Junaid said, he had driven himself home to Elathur, an hour from the airport.
Only his head was sore from bumping into the ceiling and his lips bled a little after he bit into them. "Nothing happened to me, thank God," he said.
Junaid, 25, moved to Dubai three years ago to work as an accountant at a trading firm. He was returning home after two years as he took leave due to coronavirus fallout.
As he sat dazed near the tail of the wrecked aircraft, Junaid said he remembered even after the disaster cabin crew tried to calm down passengers and helping those scrunched between mangled seats.
After a 45-minute wait, during which emergency workers helped passengers out of the wrecked front of the plane, Junaid and the rest at the back were helped down.
Now resting at home and awaiting a coronavirus test, Junaid said he wants to stay away from aircraft.
"I am really afraid," he said. "I don't want to fly again."