Denver Plane Crash, Twittered

by Karoli on December 20, 2008 · 25 comments

The good and the bad of news on Twitter is this: First reports can often be akin to a game of Telephone, where the original message gets exaggerated or twisted just a little bit until it’s completely inaccurate, while others are actually telling the tale in real time and after the fact.

The first reports hit Twitter 30 minutes or so before they hit the news stations. Unfortunately, the initial reports were inaccurate, stating that a 737 (correct) had crashed (incorrect, technically) in Denver. When I hear the word crash, I think “airplane fell out of the sky”. In this case, the plane had gone off the runway on takeoff. A serious situation, but a little bit more manageable than falling out of the sky.

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicOnce that was sorted out and a mainstream source came along, reports began to spread across the Twitter stream about tweets coming from passengers, which led to the discovery of Mike Wilson (@2drinksbehind)

My hat’s off to Mike for this tweet:

You have your wits scared out of you, drag your butt out of a flaming ball of wreckage and you can’t even get a vodka-tonic. Boo

You’ve just got to really appreciate a guy who: a) stops after an emergency evacuation out of the left emergency exit door long enough to send a tweet; and b) has a sense of humor about it.

Here’s his account of the crash:

  1. to all who’ve asked, it’s hard to know exactly what went wrong — we were in the middle of a normal takeoff when we suddely veered off
  2. a 1st class passenger I talked to indicated he saw the left engine come off at the time, but it’s unclear if this was a cause or an effect
  3. shortly after we veered off, the plane quite obviously left the runway at high speed (maybe 100 kts) and proceeded to go 4 wheel driving
  4. i think we might have gone into a ravine and dropped some distance as there was a sudden bottom-dropped-out feeling and then a jolt
  5. i believe it was after the jolt that the right engine, which was near my row, caught fire
  6. by the time the plane stopped we were burning pretty well and I think I could feel the heat even through the bulkhead and window
  7. whoever was on the left side exit row, god bless him, was johnny on the spot and instantly had the door open – people crowded out in a mass
  8. I made for the exit door as quickly as I could, fearing the right wing might explode from the fire. once out, i scrambled down the wing
  9. there was a fire station nearby and that’s where we all ended up right after the crash
  10. fortunately, there didn’t seem to be any life-threatening injuries

Reading his very matter-of-fact account of what would be a terrifying experience for me is fascinating. He lost his glasses, kept his phone, couldn’t get a vodka/tonic, and is just now home.

Thank you, Mike, for a compelling account of your experience, for sharing it, and for getting home safely.

If I had tuned into my local news station, I would have gotten the very dry AP account of the crash. But tuning into Twitter gave me the real deal, in 140 characters, one Tweet at a time.

Real time, baby.

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