The fuselage of the China Southern Airlines Boeing 737-300 which crashed at Shenzhen, China, on 8 May appears to have been severely damaged before the fatal landing.

According to sources close to the investigation, the 737's nose landing gear suffered major damage from an initial heavy landing in bad weather, from which the crew carried out a go-around. The aircraft came in fast and at the wrong attitude during its first approach to Shenzhen International Airport.

The aircraft (B-2925), from the Shenzhen branch of Guangzhou-based China Southern, was landing during a night-time thunderstorm. The initial touchdown is understood to have pushed the nose gear up into the fuselage. During the subsequent 9min go-around, passengers are reported to have heard "cracking" from the structure.

Before the second approach, the captain instructed the 65 passengers to move to the centre of the cabin, say survivors.

After touchdown, the aircraft broke up into three sections and caught fire, killing 35 people, including 21 Thai tourists, the co-pilot and one other crewmember. Another 35 passengers and crew were injured, nine critically (Flight International, 14-20 May, P6).

The three-year-old aircraft's cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders have been recovered and the crash is under investigation by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). Boeing has also dispatched a team of crash investigators to China, but it has so far been excluded by the CAAC.

The crash is the first at Shenzhen Airport since it opened in 1992, and breaks China's almost-three-year accident-free record. The CAAC has made a concerted effort to improve safety by cutting back on growth to focus on training and infrastructural improvement.

Source: Flight International