Peru airport says firetruck on arranged drill before fatal collision

By Marco Aquino

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - The operator of Peru's capital airport said on Sunday that a firetruck involved in a dramatic and fatal collision with a LATAM Airlines passenger jet had been doing a pre-arranged emergency drill.

The jet crashed into the firetruck as it careened down the runway before takeoff on Friday, with the plane rapidly catching fire and smoking heavily as it ground to a halt. The accident resulted in the death of two firefighters.

On Sunday, Lima Airport Partners, which operates the airport, said in a statement on Twitter that the firetruck had entered the runway as part of an emergency response drill coordinated between the operator and the air traffic authority.

"On Nov. 18, during the morning and until the beginning of the exercise, the firefighting team made all the necessary arrangements to execute the maneuver," the airport operator said.

"Control Tower (CORPAC) confirmed the start time 15:10, it being the time fixed for the beginning of the maneuver, and the impact with the LATAM aircraft occurred at 15:11."

Jorge Salinas, president of the board of directors of the Peruvian Corporation of Airports and Commercial Aviation (CORPAC), told local radio that the authorization for the drill had not included entry to the runway.

"There is no authorization for the entry of any vehicle to the runway. There is authorization to carry out an exercise, but it is outside the areas that currently have transit operations," he told radio station RRP on Saturday.

Peru's health ministry said on Friday that 20 passengers were receiving medical treatment, and at least two were in serious condition. The airline said no passengers or crew members were killed.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Daniel Wallis)