A plane carrying 143 people slid off a Florida runway, crashing into a nearby river, sending 21 people to hospital.
The military plane, a Miami Air Boeing 737, skidded off the runway at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville while attempting to land last night (May 3) shortly after 9.30pm.
Sliding into the St. Johns River, the aircraft was not submerged in the water and all passengers were evacuated safely.
— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) May 4, 2019
According to CNN affiliate News4Jax, the plane was carrying 136 passengers and seven aircrew, all of whom are alive and accounted for.
Spokespersons from NAS Jacksonville confirmed 21 of these people were taken to local hospitals, but all are in good condition and not critically hurt.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department spokesperson Tom Francis said:
As I was in route here, I heard that we had no critical injuries, to say that I was swiping sweat off my brow would be an understatement.
Patients are being treated at various hospitals including the Baptist Medical Centre Jacksonville, UF Health Jacksonville, Memorial Hospital, Orange Park Medical Centre and St. Vincent’s Medical Centre.
FAA says this was a DOD charter flight from Guantanamo Bay to Naval Air Station Jacksonville. It went off the runway into shallow water. Initial reports of two minor injuries. Everyone is off the plane. It’s a Miami Air International Charter https://t.co/1knBvxWTIh
— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) May 4, 2019
Capt. Mike Conner, commanding officer of NAS Jacksonville, added:
No fatalities. There were minor injuries. Bumps and bruises. No broken bones that I’m aware of or any life-threatening injuries.
Officials stated the plane was arriving from the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba.
The detention camp at Guantanamo Bay is a United States military prison located at the naval base.
It is unclear what caused the crash, but it is currently believed to be associated with the severe weather conditions.
News4Jax meteorologist John Gaughan said there was lightning and a heavy thunderstorm in the area at the time, adding:
It was a real miracle last night. We had rapidly developing storms and those cells just exploded as they got closer and closer.
Between 8.30 and 9.30 they had expanded all the way out to Jacksonville. Lightning strikes took place within 10 minutes of that period of time.
The lightning strikes were very close to the airport, about a mile or so away. It does appear low visibility, heavy rain and thunderstorms at the time, meaning lightning, probably played the biggest role in how this all took place.
Mark Bruce, fire chief at NAS Jacksonville thanked the services for their work when attending the scene.
Also describing the outcome as ‘a miracle’, he said:
We could be talking about a different story this evening, so I think there’s a lot to say about the professionalism of the folks that helped the passengers off the airplane because it very well could be worse.
The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the crash.
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