‘We hit the floor’: Mexican passenger plane caught in cartel crossfire

‘We hit the floor’: Mexican passenger plane caught in cartel crossfire

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MEXICO CITY, Jan 5 (Reuters) – “It’s an attack plane, dad,” said one of David Telles’ young children when they spotted a Mexican military plane landing next to their Aeromexico passenger jet early on Thursday.

Then the shooting started.

“As we accelerated for takeoff, we heard gunshots very close to the plane and then we all threw ourselves on the floor,” Telles said after the incident in the northern city of Culiacan.

Violence erupted Thursday throughout Culiacan after the arrest of Ovidio Guzmánthe son of the notorious drug lord known as El Chapo and a senior member of the Sinaloa cartel.

Aeromexico said no one on the Tellez flight was injured. Culiacan airport closed shortly after as security forces patrolled the city, which was littered with burnt-out vehicles, trying to contain the violent reaction.

Tellez, 42, was traveling with his wife and children, ages 7, 4 and 1, after spending Christmas with family.

He told Reuters he reached the airport for his 8:24 a.m. flight without incident, although he ran into roadblocks set up after overnight gunfire. Although Guzman’s arrest has not yet been confirmed, nervous security has urged passengers to get in quickly.

“The authorities didn’t say anything,” he said by phone.

Tellez hid in an airport bathroom with his family after hearing that gang members were at the airport. The rumor turned out to be false and the Aeromexico passengers quickly boarded.

Yet, just as flight AM165 to Mexico City was about to take off, a series of military aircraft touched down on the runway.

Tellez took out his cell phone and recorded several videos that showed two large Air Force transport planes, smaller, fighter-like attack planes and military trucks on the tarmac. Then shots began to ring out in the distance.

A video circulating on social media that appears to capture the same incident shows passengers crouching low under their seats as a child cries.

The flight attendant said the engine had been hit, causing a leak. The crew directed passengers to disembark, moving them to a windowless airport lounge.

It is not clear who shot whom.

Tellez’s family plans to board another flight Friday, but is staying put until then.

“We prefer to stay at the airport until it is safe to go,” he said. “The city is worse. There’s a lot of shooting and confusion.”

Reporting by Sarah Moreland and Carolina Ruiz in Mexico City; Editing by Bradley Perrett

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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