How to survive a plane crash: What can soccer tragedy teach us? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

How to survive a plane crash: What can soccer tragedy teach us?

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(NBC) -

Six people cheated death when a jet crashed in a mountainous part of Colombia. 

But experts say it is almost impossible to explain how at this stage.

The Avro RJ85 aircraft carrying Brazil's Chapecoense soccer team came down around 18 miles from Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Medellin.

Chapecoense defender Alan Ruschel, teammates Jackson Ragnar Follmann and Hélio Hermito Zampier, flight attendant Ximena Suarez, aircraft mechanic Erwin Tumiri, and journalist Rafael Valmorbida were all being treated in hospital on Tuesday.

U.K.-based aviation analyst Alex Macheras said more questions than answers remained about the incident.

"It is surprising [that anyone survived] but obviously we don't know the details of the crash," Macheras said. "How this aircraft impacted, where the impact actually took place or happened. They are all determining factors as to the outcome of it."

Given that the plane was about to land, Macheras believes it likely did not simply fall out of the sky and could have been a controlled descent.

If the crew were in control then this obviously increases the likelihood of survival, he explained.

But he added that the fact that every crash is different makes it difficult to predict precise actions a passenger can to take increase survival chances when a plane goes down — other than following the safety procedures.

A project carried out by Popular Mechanics magazine nine years ago looked at all crashes since 1971 for which seat survival data was available.

It found that people in the rear seats of a plane had a 40 percent greater chance of surviving than passengers toward the front.

But Macheras reiterated that there are so many variables involved in a plane crash that mean it's impossible to say with any certainty where the best place to be seated is at the point of impact.

"It completely depends as no crash is the same," he said. "Passengers should not be specifically choosing to sit somewhere in the hopes that they survive a crash."

But research from Ed Galea, professor and fire safety research group leader at London's University of Greenwich, found that seating arrangements can help people escape the aircraft safely if they have survived the initial impact.

Published in 2011, De Galea's analysis concluded that seats close to the rear of the plane and aisle seats were generally safer after analyzing more than 100 plane crashes and interviewing 1,99 survivors. 

Those that were situated five rows from an exit were the most likely to escape, he found.

De Galea also suggested that passengers practice how to open their seatbelt and count the rows to their nearest exit before take-off so that in the event of a smoke-filled cabin, passengers can feel their way to an exit.

According to Macheras, statistics do seem to bear out the fact that when crashes happen, survival is more likely on a larger aircraft.

He said that is most likely down to the fact that larger fuselages are able to withstand greater impacts.

With all these factors considered, Macheras said the best way to increase your chances of making it safely out of an crash is to listen to the cabin crew, keep aisles and gangways clear and to remain calm.

It's also important to note that the vast majority of air crashes do not result in fatalities, according to oft-quoted research by the National Transport Safety Board from 2001.

"In terms of aviation incidents and accidents on the whole, the main thing to increase your likelihood of survival is to listen ... it is to watch the safety briefing before takeoff, it is to locate your nearest exit, it's to adopt the brace position when instructed to and to follow all the instructions of the crew," Macheras said.

He added: "That safety briefing is as key as ever. Many don't seem to listen to it. They never know when it's going to become handy as such but luckily it's not too often because air travel is very safe."

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