'There was smoke in the cabin... We saw the whole plane catch fire'
Four Irish people were among the 300 crew and passengers who survived a dramatic Dubai crash landing.
However, one member of the airport fire crew, who rushed to battle the blaze, tragically died as he helped to save the lives of all those on board.
The incident happened at around 9.45am Irish time yesterday when Emirates Flight EK521, travelling from Trivandrum International Airport in Thiruvananthapuram, India, crash landed at Dubai.
The United Arab Emirate city is a major aviation transport hub.
Incredibly, all 282 passengers and 18 crew members who were aboard the Boeing 777 survived.
The Emirates airline has a significant number of Irish crew members and has made recruitment drives for cabin staff here in the past.
Dramatic videos and pictures of the accident circulated online yesterday, and black smoke could be seen billowing from the aircraft, which appeared to have landed on its belly.
Some of the pictures showed how almost the entire roof of the plane was burnt off by the time emergency services got the blaze under control.
The Aviation Herald, a journal dealing specifically with aeronautical news, said the plane suffered "a collapse in landing gear" and burst into flames.
There were conflicting reports about whether the plane was making an emergency landing or a normal approach before the accident.
One passenger told the Reuters news agency how terrifying the experience was for them.
"As we were landing there was smoke coming out in the cabin," Sharon Maryam Sharji said.
"People were screaming and we had a very hard landing. We left by going down the emergency slides. We could see the whole plane catch fire."
Krishna Bhagavathula, who was at the airport, wrote on Twitter that the flames had burned through the top of the aircraft before being brought under control.
A spokesperson for the Dubai media office, which represents the Emirate's government, said the plane was flying in from India when it "crash landed".
The airline said both the captain and the first officer had over 7,000 hours of flying experience each.
Emirates chairman Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum paid tribute to the firefighter who lost his life trying to extinguish the blaze.
Emirates has an excellent safety record and is the Middle East's biggest airline.