KINGSTON: An American Airlines flight carrying 154 people overshot the runway at Norman Manley International Airport in heavy rain last Tuesday night, bouncing across the tarmac and injuring more than 40 people before it stopped just short of the Caribbean Sea.
As of press time, 44 people were taken to hospital with broken bones and back pains and four were seriously hurt, airport and government officials said. Officials at Canada’s High Commission in Kingston confirmed that three Canadians were aboard the flight but did not suffer any injuries, said Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Dana Cryderman. As of press time, no other information on the Canadians was available.
American Airlines Flight 331, which originated out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, departed from Miami International Airport at 8:52 p.m. and arrived at Kingston at 10:22 p.m. It was carrying 148 passengers and a crew of six. The majority of the passengers aboard were Jamaicans coming home for Christmas, said Minister with Responsibility for Information, Daryl Vaz.
“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,” said passenger Pilar Abaurrea, adding that the flight had been very turbulent.
The impact cracked the fuselage, crushed the left landing gear and separated both engines from the Boeing 737-800, said airline spokesman Tim Smith. The plane came to a halt three to five metres from the Caribbean Sea.
Emergency services were immediately activated and the injured passengers were taken to the Kingston Public Hospital. Others were taken off the plane to safety.
National Security Minister, Senator Dwight Nelson; Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry and Vaz visited the scene after hearing of the accident.
U.S. investigators will analyze whether the plane should have been landing in such bad weather, Smith said.
“American Airlines is in direct contact with officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration and is cooperating fully with appropriate authorities. American Airlines cannot speculate as to possible causes of the incident,” the airline said in a statement.
“The care of our passengers and crew members is our highest priority and we will offer all the assistance necessary,” said the airline’s chairman and chief executive officer, Gerard Arpey.
The Norman Manley International Airport reopened last Wednesday after officials delayed flights following the crash due to concerns that the plane’s tail might be hindering visibility.