Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kingston Plane Crash


An American Airlines plane overshot the runway in bad weather in Kingston last night. People were hurt but thankfully no one was killed. From the Gleaner report:

One hundred and forty-five passengers aboard American Airlines flight 331 from Miami narrowly missed death as the aircraft overran the Norman Manley International Airport runway in Kingston, ending inches away from the sea along the Port Royal main road last night.

More than 40 passengers aboard the Boeing 738 aircraft were taken to hospital, The Gleaner has learnt.

According to Information Minister Daryl Vaz, most of those suffered broken bones.

"Some (passengers) were shaken up badly, some are suffering from trauma and broken bones," Robert Mais, a passenger who walked off without any scratches told The Gleaner.

According to Mais, the plane, which was scheduled to depart Miami at 7 p.m., was delayed for an hour. The trip, he said, was bumpy "and the landing was terrible".

"We touched down pretty fast," he added, noting that he could hear the engine's reverse throttle, though the plane didn't seem to be slowing down.

Instinctively, he said he placed his head down, "and it was over in a flash. I hardly felt the impact of the crash".

Mais, who was seated in seat 6A in the business class section, said there was total darkness on impact, and everything was thrown out of the overhead compartments. He, however, did not realise the impact of the damage to the aircraft until he felt rain coming through the roof.

"When I came off the aircraft I saw that we were about 10-15 feet from the sea and boulders, so I walked on the beach to the road, where we were picked up by a bus."

Chairman of the Airports Authority of Jamaica, Mark Hart, when contacted, said it was possible that torrential rainfall affecting the island could have caused the pilot to experience visibility problems.

"It is obviously a blessing that at this time of the year, what could have turned out to be a catastrophe, we were saved from," said Hart.

At least one other airline was affected by the mishap. A Virgin Atlantic plane, fully loaded, heading for the United Kingdom, was delayed for an unknown period as the runway had to be closed.

Paul Hall, vice-president of NMIA, said the airport would be closed indefinitely and all flights would be rerouted to Sangster International in MoBay.

Efforts to get a comment from American Airlines officials locally proved futile.

About midnight, two ambulances pulled up at the Kingston Public Hospital with at least 10 passengers with minor injuries, one with a busted lip, others suffering with body pain.

Some passengers had been admitted earlier with broken bones, a source told this newspaper. Most of those admitted had head injuries.

The entrance to the accident and emergency unit was heavily guarded by more than a dozen armed police personnel.

Doctors and nurses were last night being called from home to boost resources at the reportedly short-staffed KPH, The Gleaner learnt.

Shortly after midnight, Edith Allwood-Anderson, president of the Nurses' Association of Jamaica, rushed into the casualty department, her face etched with concern.

At the Harbour View roundabout, amid pelting rain, police personnel cordoned off the area, blocking vehicular traffic to the accident site.

Superintendent Michael Bailey of the Kingston East Division, who was manning operations there, told The Gleaner at 12:30 this morning that no more injured passengers remained at the crash site. He said the police blockade at the Port Royal section of the Palisadoes strip would remain indefinitely.
~ Janet Silvera & Andre Wright, Staff Reporters - Jamaica Gleaner. Photo: Bryan Cummings

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