The Associated Press reports that an American Airlines flight from Miami to Kingston, Jamaica, with more than 150 aboard overshot a runway and skidded to the edge of the Caribbean Sea, injuring more than 40 people. Flight 331 lurched down the runway of Norman Manley International Airport last night shortly before midnight. Crews evacuated the passengers, who had to walk along a beach in the rain to board buses to reach the terminal. Some 44 people were taken to nearby hospitals with broken bones and back pains, Information Minister Daryl Vaz told The Associated Press.
Four people were seriously injured, said Paul Hall, senior vice president of airport operations. American Airlines said only two were admitted to the hospital and nobody suffered life-threatening injuries. The plane’s fuselage was cracked, both engines broke off from the impact, and the left main landing gear collapsed, airline spokesman Tim Smith said. U.S. federal investigators will analyze whether the plane should have been landing in such bad weather, Smith said, adding that other planes landed safely amid heavy rain.
Passenger Robert Mais told The Gleaner newspaper of Jamaica that he could hear the engine’s reverse throttle but that the plane didn’t seem to slow as it skittered down the runway. He said he felt rain coming through the roof of the darkened jet after the impact and that baggage from the overhead compartments was scattered throughout the cabin.
“Some (passengers) were shaken up badly,” he told the paper. The plane was about 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters) from the Caribbean Sea at that point, and passengers walked along the beach to be picked up by a bus, Mais said.
The Boeing 737-800, which originated at Reagan National Airport in Washington, had taken off from Miami International Airport at 8:52 p.m. and arrived in Kingston at 10:22 p.m. It was carrying 148 passengers and a crew of six, American said. The majority of those aboard were Jamaicans coming home for Christmas, Vaz said. “All of a sudden, when it hit the ground, the plane was kind of bouncing, someone said the plane was skidding and there was panic,” Passenger Pilar Abaurrea of Keene, New Hampshire, said in a telephone interview. She added that the flight was very turbulent, with the crew being forced to halt the beverage service three times before finally giving it up. Just before landing, the pilot warned of more turbulence but said it likely wouldn’t be much worse than what they had experienced so far, she said.
Smith said there are two “significant cracks” in the fuselage but it is intact, and both engines came off the plane. He said the engines are designed to separate from the wings during an accident as a safety measure.
The airport reopened early Wednesday after officials had delayed flights because of concerns that the plane’s tail might be hindering visibility. Some 400 passengers waited for their flights to be cleared for takeoff, Security Minister Dwight Nelson told Radio Jamaica.
For more from the Associated Press report go to http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hHXB32j32fuWiETQbCw6ZB79GbewD9CP0F180