The captain of a chartered plane that skidded off the runway and came to rest in a river late last week said it was “a miracle” no one died in the accident.
The military-chartered jet, which was carrying 143 people, careened off the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville Friday amid thunder, lightning and heavy rain.
“The plane literally hit the ground and bounced — it was clear the pilot did not have total control of the plane, it bounced again,” passenger
Cheryl Bormann told CNN.
“We were in water. We couldn’t tell where we were, whether it was a river or an ocean,” she added. “There was rain coming down. There was lightning and thunder.”
Incredibly, despite the dramatic nature of the crash, authorities say that none of the passengers were seriously injured, and that they were all successfully rescued from the Boeing 737’s wings. The only passenger to be hospitalized was a young infant, who is said to be doing well.
“I think it is a miracle,” said Capt. Michael Connor, the base’s commanding officer, according to the Associated Press. “We could be talking about a different story this evening.”
Unfortunately, three pets were lost in the plane’s underside cargo section. “There’s water in the cargo hold,” said Kaylee LaRocque, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy, according to USA Today. “We are so sad about this situation, that there are animals that unfortunately passed away.”
“Our hearts and prayers go out to those pet owners during this terrible incident,” the Navy base tweeted out early Saturday.
What caused the crash?
On Monday, it was reported that the crash could have been caused by an “inoperative” landing system on the Boeing 737. According to the BBC, investigators are currently looking into the failure of the “thrust reverser” system, which helps the plane slow down after landing.
“The aircraft had been in maintenance and the maintenance log noted that the left-hand thrust reverser was inoperative,” said Bruce Landsberg, vice-chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board, at a press conference Sunday.
In addition, investigators noted that the pilots had requested a runway change shortly before landing. The runway they chose to land on had equipment set up on it and was therefore shorter than usual — cut from 9,000 feet to just 7,800.