JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Boeing 737 plane arriving from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba with 143 people aboard went off the runway and into the St. Johns River in Florida on Friday night, authorities said.
The plane was in shallow water and not submerged in the river in Jacksonville, and everyone is alive, the Sheriff’s Office said.
It had 136 passengers and seven crew members on board, and they’ve all been accounted for, Naval Air Station Jacksonville said.
Those with minor injuries were treated at the scene, and those requiring additional treatment were taken to the hospital. Twenty-one people were transported to hospitals in good condition, according to Officer Tom Francis of Jacksonville Fire Rescue.
The plane was trying to land
The plane slid off a runway into the St. Johns River at 9:40 p.m. ET, a spokesman from the Naval Air Station Jacksonville said. It appears to have skidded off the airport runway while trying to land and ended up in the river, CNN affiliate WJXT reported.
It was arriving from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay into Naval Air Station Jacksonville, and fell into the river at the end of the runway, Naval Air Station Jacksonville said. An investigation is underway.
“Navy security and emergency response personnel are on the scene and monitoring the situation,” it said. “Families members who were expecting the arrival of passengers should stand by until they are released.”
David Soucie, a former inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration, described it as a private jet charter. Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry had initially called it a commercial flight.
“The fact that they were all brought out of the aircraft safely and no one was hurt says a lot about how the crew reacted to this situation,” Soucie said.
It flew through thunderstorms, passenger says
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,” the defense attorney said. “And then the plane bounced and screeched and bounced some more. It lifted to the right and then it lifted to the left. And it then it sort of swerved, and then it came to a complete like crash stop.”
Bormann said they climbed onto the wings of the plane.
“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.
Curry said fire and rescue crews were on the scene. “While they work please pray,” he wrote.
The White House called to offer help as the situation was developing, the mayor said in a tweet.