SAHARANEWS – A Boeing 737 skidded off a runway into a river after crash-landing during a lightning storm in Florida on Friday, officials said, with terrified passengers all safely evacuated to shore from the stricken jet’s wings.
The plane carrying 143 people including the crew from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba slammed into shallow water next to a naval air station in Jacksonville after a hard landing that saw the plane bounce and swerves down the runway, passengers said.
No fatalities or critical injuries were reported.
“As we went down … the plane bounced and screeched and bounced more and lifted to the right and then it lifted to the left,” Cheryl Bormann, a defense attorney who was on board the flight, told CNN.
“And then it sort of swerved and then it came to a complete crash stop.”
Some oxygen masks deployed and overhead lockers flew open during the landing, she added.
Twenty-one adults were taken to local hospitals, but none were critically injured, Jacksonville sheriff’s office said on Twitter.
Others were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
Naval Air Station Jacksonville said in a statement all 136 passengers and seven aircrew on board had been accounted for.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday a team was being sent to investigate the incident.
Navy security and emergency response personnel including some 90 firefighters attended the scene.
Passengers in life vests were instructed to clamber onto the wings of the jet before being transported to shore aboard inflatable life rafts, Bormann said.
“We couldn’t tell where we were, a river or an ocean. There was rain coming down. There was lightning and thunder. We stood on that wing for a significant period of time,” she told CNN.
Images showed the Miami Air plane lying partially submerged in water after the crash-landing, with its nose cone missing.
Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry tweeted that the White House had called to offer assistance as the situation was developing.
“All alive and accounted for. Our Fire and Rescue teams are family to all,” said Curry.
Teams were working to control jet fuel spilling into the St Johns River, he added.
The “Rotator” flight from the US base in Cuba carries passengers including military personnel and family members.
Boeing said it was aware of the incident and gathering information.
The US aerospace giant is under scrutiny following two crashes that killed 346 passengers and crew and grounded its 737 MAX planes worldwide.