A Boeing 737 with 143 people aboard slid off a runway into a shallow river in Jacksonville, Florida on Friday night as pilots attempted a landing in the middle of a thunderstorm.
All 136 passengers and seven flight crew members on board are alive and accounted for, although 21 adults were transported to local hospitals with minor injuries, officials said.
Officials did not immediately say what caused the plane to leave the runway and go into the St. Johns River.
The plane, a chartered Boeing 737-800, was arriving from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Naval Air Station Jacksonville at about 9:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time when the incident occurred, a spokesman for the Florida air base said.
Capt. Michael P. Connor, the commanding officer at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, said at a news conference that “the cause of the mishap has yet to be determined” and praised the skill of the first responders on the scene.
“We could be talking about a different story this evening. So there’s a lot to say about the professionalism of the folks that helped the passengers off the airplane,” Conor said early Saturday. “Some of them were coming back to see their families, some of them were continuing on travel to their homes outside of Florida.”
The mayor of Jacksonville, Lenny Curry, said on Twitter that President Donald Trump called him to offer help as the situation was “developing.”
“No fatalities reported. We are all in this together,” Curry said in a separate tweet.
7. No fatalities reported. We are all in this together. Absorb that.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) May 4, 2019
Passenger Cheryl Bormann told CNN’s Don Lemon the plane flew through lightning and thunderstorms on the way to Jacksonville.
“As we went down, we had a really hard landing,” Bormann said. “And then the plane bounced and screeched and bounced some more ... then it came to a complete like crash stop.”
Bormann said passengers had no idea where they were at first.
“We were in water. We couldn’t tell where we were, whether it was a river or an ocean. There was rain coming down. There was lightning and thunder. And we stood on that wing for a significant period of time. Rescue folks came and eventually someone inflated a life raft that had been on the plane and we began climbing into it. Everybody was helping everybody,” she said.
The flight was operated by Miami Air International, a charter airline with a fleet of Boeing 737-800s, that is contracted by the military for its twice-weekly “rotator” roundtrip service between the US mainland and Guantanamo Bay, said Bill Dougherty, a spokesperson for the base in Jacksonville.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the crash.
The NTSB is sending a Go Team to investigate Miami Air International flight 293, a Boeing 737-800, which departed runway and came to rest in St. Johns River, Jacksonville, Florida (no reported fatalities).— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) May 4, 2019
While the plane involved in the Jacksonville incident is a Boeing 737, it is not a 737 Max, the plane involved in two deadly crashes less than six months apart. Those crashes are currently under investigation by the Department of Justice as the airplane manufacture retools the plane.
In a statement released on Twitter, Boeing said it is cooperating with the NTSB’s investigation into the Jacksonville crash.