Note updates at end of article regarding the history of this plane and possible weather issues before the accident.

It was a terrifying situation with a thankfully happy ending in Jacksonville, Florida tonight, when a Boeing 737 skidded off a runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville into the St. Johns River. All 136 passengers and 7 crew members on board have been safely rescued with no fatalities.

The plane was apparently attempting to land when it skidded and ended up in the water. Fortunately for those on the plane, the water was shallow and the plane was never submerged.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) Marine Unit responded to the scene, along with Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department (JFRD), and assisted with the rescue. The JSO official twitter account posted the good news that “[e]very person is alive and accounted for.” There were several minor injuries reported, and a total of 21 people were transported to local hospitals. Tom Francis, an JFRD spokesman, told reporters that all patients were in good condition and no critical injuries.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry confirmed the successful rescue of all on board and asked for prayers while first responders did their work. Curry also noted that teams were working to contain any potentially spilled jet fuel.

The plane was a charter flight that departed from the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba earlier tonight. The accident occurred around 9:40 pm ET.

Local CNN affiliate WJXT reported the following information from flight tracking service Flight Aware about the plane’s travels today:

  • 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.
  • The departed Guantanamo bay around 7:30 p.m. and was attempting to land at NAS Jacksonville around 9:30 p.m.

UPDATE: Bay News 9 reporter Troy Kinsey, who is himself a commercial pilot and flight instructor, posted several tweets about the accident tonight, including noting that the plane was attempting to land on the shorter of the two runways at NAS Jacksonville, which has issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen; a report of hazardous conditions that can affect aviation safety) closing that runway.

NAS Jacksonville posted on their Facebook page confirming much of the information reported earlier by the local first responders and media, noting the survival of all passengers and crew, with only minor injuries. “An investigation into the mishap is underway,” the post concludes.

UPDATE 5/4/2019 12:20 am: An interesting tidbit from the plane’s history. Here’s the flightradar24 link showing the plane’s travel today, identifying the plane as a Boeing 737-81Q, registration number N732MA. The plane is just over 18 years old, with a manufacture date of April 18, 2001.

This same exact plane appears to have been involved in a previous incident overrunning a runway in 2012, at the Concord Regional Airport in Concord, North Carolina, when it became “stuck in the grass” and had to be towed out. A local news report at the time from WSOC-Jacksonville noted that “Officials have not said how the plane ended up in the grass,” but their photos from the scene show tire tracks clearly visible from the edge of the runway into the grass where the plane stopped.

That 2012 flight was carrying NASCAR drivers and fortunately there were no reported injuries.

UPDATE 12:40 am: Weather may have been a factor. WJXT-Jacksonville Chief Meteorologist reported that a heavy thunderstorm, including lightning, had rapidly developed shortly before the plane attempted to land.

“The original storm cell rapidly developed,” wrote Gaughan. “This is unusual for this time of day and this time of year.”

With the caveat that it was “just a first look at conditions,” Gaughan observed there had been heavy rains for about 45 minutes before the accident, with about 1″ of rain in total, and visibility was “low.”

Here’s another report of bad weather possibly affecting the plane, from the Miami Herald:

Defense attorney Cheryl Bormann, described as a 9/11 trial lawyer in a 2018 McClatchy article, told CNN that there were military personnel and civilians connected to the military in some way on board. Bormann said there were families with young children on the plane.

She said the flight hit bad weather, and that the plane’s air conditioning had malfunctioned. She described a bouncy landing.

“It felt like the plane was kind of veering sideways in a way,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon. “All of a sudden it just smashed into something.”

This is a breaking news story and has been updated.

Photo by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. 

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