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Boeing 737 skids off runway into Florida river

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A passenger plane slid off a runway in the US state of Florida on Friday night, ending up in a river after landing during a thunderstorm.

Twenty-one people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, officials said.

The chartered Boeing 737, operated by Miami Air International, had flown from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to a military base in the city of Jacksonville.

Passengers say it landed heavily in the storm, skidding into St John’s River.

The 136 passengers and seven crew members on board evacuated the Boeing 737-800 via its wings.

“No fatalities reported. We are all in this together,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry wrote on Twitter after the incident.

He also said President Donald Trump had offered assistance as the situation was developing.

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Naval Air Station Jacksonville wrote on Facebook that pets travelling on the plane still hadn’t been retrieved hours after the incident due to safety concerns.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to those pet owners during this terrible incident,” it added.

‘Terrifying’ moment

One passenger on the plane, Cheryl Bormann, described the “terrifying” moment it slid off the runway.

“The plane literally hit the ground and bounced – it was clear the pilot did not have total control of the plane, it bounced again,” she told CNN.

Handout image shows the plane in the riverImage copyrightAFP
Image captionAt least 50 firefighters helped rescue people from the aircraft’s wing

“We were in the water. We couldn’t tell where we were, whether it was a river or an ocean,” she said, adding that she could smell jet fuel leaking into the river.

In a news conference, Captain Michael Connor, commanding officer at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, said it was a “miracle” that there had been no serious injuries or fatalities.

Miami Air International is contracted by the US military for its twice-weekly “rotator” service between the US mainland and Guantanamo Bay, Bill Dougherty, a base spokesman said.

Officials say the people on Friday’s flight included civilian and military personnel.

Boeing released a statement sharing its “well wishes” with those on board.

It said it was providing technical assistance to the US National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.

The aerospace giant has been under increased scrutiny following two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max 8 planes – a different model to the one involved in the incident on Friday.

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