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Sunday marks 1 year since plane skidded into St. Johns River

Boeing 737 slid off NAS Jacksonville runway while landing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sunday marked one year since a charter jet skidded off the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and crashed into the St. Johns River.

The Boeing 737, operated by Miami Air International, was carrying more than 140 passengers and crew members from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, around 9:40 p.m. May 3, 2019, when it overran the runway at NAS Jacksonville and came to a rest in the river, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. All of the passengers survived, but most were hospitalized at least overnight for injuries.

“I think it’s a miracle,” said Capt. Mike Conner, who was the commanding officer of Naval Air Station Jacksonville at time. “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.”

Body camera footage from two Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, which was later obtained by News4Jax, captured the response from dozens of emergency teams -- including the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, the First Coast Navy Fire and Emergency Services and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office -- to the crash.

In the week following the mishap, the Boeing 737, which had flown for 18 years, was lifted onto a barge and towed 18 miles up the river from NAS Jacksonville to Green Cove Springs, passing under the Buckman Bridge along the way.

NTSB is still investigating why the plane ended up in the St. Johns River.

According to a May 23, 2019, NTSB report, the plane left the runway about 60 feet right of the centerline onto the grass before hitting a rocky embankment at the end of the runway, prior to stopping in the river. The landing gear separated from the plane during landing and the plane stopped in less than five feet of water. No one was seriously injured.

The NTSB report said the Miami Air flight encountered heavy rain as it began its descent and switched to a different runway where the weather seemed better. The NTSB report noted that thunderstorms with frequent lightning were in the area.

At the time of the crash, the plane had logged 38,928 total flight hours, with 15,610 total flight cycles, according to the report.

READ: Report from National Transportation Safety Board | RELATED: Pilot before plane hit St. Johns: ‘Go ahead, let’s do it’

On July 8, 2019, News4Jax obtained a copy of what appeared to be the first lawsuit filed. The suit alleges the Miami Air Flight 293 was coming about 200 mph, "which is about 25 miles-per-hour faster than appropriate.” The suit also noted the thunderstorm over NAS Jacksonville, saying the Federal Aviation Administration asks pilots to maintain 20 miles separation from any thunderstorm.

Additional lawsuits have since been filed against Miami Air. In February, lawyers for one of the passengers and the airline were in court, where a federal judge chastised both sides for not communicating better. The lawyers for that passenger claimed, “Miami Air said this is God’s fault, that this was an act of God that this accident occurred.”

In March, Miami Air filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to its bankruptcy filing, the coronavirus has halted nearly all of its flights. Miami Air hopes to use Chapter 11 to reorganize and emerge from bankruptcy in a way that allows them to move forward financially.


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