'Miracle': Plane carrying 143 people skids into St. Johns River, no deaths

Boeing 737 slides off NAS Jacksonville runway while landing

By Nick Jones - Digital producer, Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Corley Peel - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A charter jet carrying 143 people slid off the Naval Air Station Jacksonville runway into the St. Johns River on Friday night, sending nearly 2 dozen people to area hospitals, according to officials.

Spokespersons from NAS Jacksonville said the Boeing 737 plane was arriving around 9:40 p.m. from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and coming in for a landing.

All 136 passengers and crew on board the Miami Air International plane were alive and accounted for, according to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Eighty JFRD members responded to the scene.

Firefighters initially said 21 patients had been transported to area hospitals. A check Saturday with the hospital public information officials brought the count to 22 patients, including three children. Only one of those children had to be admitted to the hospital.

All patients had been treated and released by Saturday morning.

"As I was in route here, I heard that we had no critical injuries, to say that I was wiping sweat off my brow would be an understatement," Francis said.

UNCUT: Briefing from Tom Francis with JFRD NAS Jacksonville officials brief media 

Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, UF Health Jacksonville, Memorial Hospital, Orange Park Medical Center, St. Vincent's Medical Center and Wolfson Children's Hospital were among the hospitals who were treating patients.

"No fatalities. There were minor injuries," said Capt. Mike Connor, commanding officer of NAS Jacksonville. "Bumps and bruises. No broken bones that I'm aware of or any life-threatening injuries."

Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted:

"I think it's a miracle," said Captain Mike Conner, Commanding Officer, Naval Air Station Jacksonville. "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."

It's unclear if severe weather was to blame for the crash. However, News4Jax Meteorologist John Gaughan said there was lightning in the area at the time the plane hit the river.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Boeing 737 skids into St. Johns River

Tera Lageman, who lives along the river across from NAS Jacksonville, didn't hear the plane go down, but could see the lights from fire rescue vehicles and police cruisers.

"It was like the 4th of July," Lageman said. "I came outside and could see all the lights and it was just like a steady stream of emergency vehicles going onto the runway."

According to FlightAware, a live flight tracker, the jet:

  • Departed Naval Station Norfolk around 5:30 a.m. and landed at NAS Jacksonville around 7:20 a.m.
  • Departed NAS Jacksonville around 3 p.m. and landed in Guantanamo Bay around 5:30 p.m.
  • Departed Guantanamo Bay around 7:30 p.m. and was attempting to land at NAS Jacksonville around 9:40 p.m.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash. Fleet and Family Service Center is available for counseling by calling 4141 or 4153.

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