The jetliner into a ravine at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in a heavy thunderstorm, broke in pieces, and caught fire.
Airport rental car manager Guy Ledez says he was driving a vehicle to a parking lot at the airport when he saw the crash unfolding.
Ledez, 37, drove the car to the edge of the ravine where the plane had crashed. He jumped out and began assisting passengers from the 10-foot muddy ravine to safety. After the last person had made it to higher ground, Ledez and a fellow, unidentified rescuer scrambled into the plane to make sure no one was left behind or needed assistance.
After sweeping the plane for stragglers, Ledez and his partner started to leave the plane when a loud explosion nearly threw him out.
After "landing" safely, Ledez ran up the ravine, climbed over the barbed wire fence, cutting his hands as he did, and grabbed the attention of emergency vehicles. He alerted emergency officials to the passengers below who needed triage.
On The Early Show Friday, Ledez
"I could see the plane on the runway," he said. "And then, in the distance, I saw lightning hit it, then smoke come up. And the plane just kept going, then sort of went down, like down a hill. (It) just disappeared from my view."
So, Ledez continued, "I pulled up. I just had to swerve around some cars that were actually turning around and leaving. I parked my vehicle right where the debris left the runway and … sort of just got out and saw the tail section sticking up from the ravine. (There was) a lot of smoke in the air and a little bit of flames. I just quickly pulled out my cell phone camera and took a couple pictures."
But there was little time for that: "I looked over and saw a few people coming up where the plane had gone through another fence. I ran across the field. When I got there, I looked down the field and it was a mass of people, a big line of people coming from the plane. I just jumped down, like halfway down, without thinking, and (was) just sort of pulling people, grabbing people as much as I could."
Ledez says the evacuating passengers told him they didn't know if anyone was still on the plane, so he and the unidentified other rescuer rushed into the craft, pulling themselves up the evacuation slides.
"I didn't even actually think about what was happening," Ledez added. "We got into the plane in the back, then we just sort of entered where the seating area was. He took the left aisle, I took the right aisle. It was dark and smoky. There was debris all over the floor. The overhead compartments were open, and stuff was hanging out. There was stuff everywhere. We walked briskly checking the seats, calling out to see if anybody was actually in the plane."