YICHUN, Heilongjiang, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- "Someone dragged me to the emergency exit door and threw me out before I realized what was going on."
At eight years old, Ji Yifan apparently knows little of how narrowly he has escaped death.
Ji is among 54 survivors from the Brazilian-made Embraer E-190 jet that crashed upon landing in Yichun, a city in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Tuesday night.
At least 42 people died in the crash.
The evacuation slide, which was also on fire, broke just as Ji was sliding down. "I fell to the ground. Again someone dragged me aside," he said in his hospital bed, bandaged on his right cheek and with bruises on his face, neck and arms.
A man who was slightly injured in the head remembered strong turbulence after the crew announced it was about to land.
"There were four or five bad turbulence and luggage in the overhead bin were raining down," he said. "Everyone panicked. Those sitting in the back began rushing to the front of the cabin."
"There was smog, which I knew was toxic. I held my breath and ran on until I saw a burning hole on one side of the cabin. I crawled out and ran at least 100 meters to ensure I was safe."
Altogether 96 people -- including five crew members -- boarded the plane, sources with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said. Five of the passengers were children.
The captain, Qi Quanjun, survived with serious injuries.
Lying on a hospital bed with a bandaged face and tubes tucked around his body, Qi was unable to talk sense when Xinhua reporters met him in the city hospital Wednesday morning.
He said he couldn't remember anything when asked weather he had made an emergency landing.
Two black boxes from the crashed aircraft were retrieved Wednesday morning, and experts are still decoding the devices hoping to find clues leading to the cause of the accident.
The city's top official Xu Zhaojun said earlier on Wednesday that the captain had talked with air traffic controllers on the ground.
"He said he could see lights on the runway, and was ready for landing," said Xu, quoting airport authorities.
Several survivors remembered the plane touched the ground before it arrived at the airport. "I looked out and couldn't see anything -- it was pitch dark and there was no light," said Xue Xilai, a survivor who was sitting in the 10th row, close to the emergency exit.
Investigators said the plane wreckage was about 2 km from the runway.
The General Administration of Civil Aviation closed the Yichun airport shortly after the crash and no airport source was available for interview Wednesday.
Vice Minister of civil aviation Li Jian said it would take a while to publish the result of the investigation. "It's hard to make any assumption right now, but we will publish, step by step, what we can rule out."
Officials in Yichun confirmed about 18 officials from Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and its provincial branches were also on board. They were heading for a meeting in Yichun.
A ministry official in Beijing, who refused to be named, said she knew at least two colleagues from the southwestern Sichuan Province had died and all others were injured.
Vice Minister Sun Baoshu was in critical condition. "He suffers broken bones and injures in the brain and lungs," said Dr. Li Jinchang who operated on Sun overnight.
He said the operation lasted four hours until 2 a.m.
The jet broke into two pieces before it smashed into the ground and exploded. Most of the casualties were found in the back of the cabin.
According to the death roll released by Yichun city government, the dead were aged roughly from 12 to 55, calculated from their birth dates indicated in their ID numbers.
The plane is owned by Henan Airlines in the central Chinese province of the same name. Reporters were denied entry into the company's facility in Zhengzhou Wednesday. Staff members and guards at the entrance said the company would not accept any request for interview or make any comment.
Its parent company, Shenzhen Airlines based in the southern boom city neighboring Hong Kong, said all flights run by Henan Airlines had been canceled as of Wednesday.
Henan Airlines flies smaller regional jets, mainly on routes in north and northeast China. Previously known as Kunpeng Airlines, the carrier was relaunched as Henan Airlines earlier this year.
It launched the Harbin-Yichun route only two weeks ago.
The two cities are about five hours drive apart. The Lindu Airport, located in a mountain valley covered with lush forest about 9 kilometers away from downtown Yichun, opened on Aug. 27 last year.