Delta plane slides off runway at snowy New York airport

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2015 11:32 AM

By Laila Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Delta Air Lines jetliner landing during a snowstorm at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Thursday slid off the runway and struck a fence before coming to rest at the edge of Flushing Bay, but there were no serious injuries.

All of the 127 passengers and five crew members aboard were evacuated safely from the aircraft on inflatable slides and moved to the airport terminal on buses, officials said.

The incident occurred at about 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) as Delta flight 1086 was landing at LaGuardia after a morning flight from Atlanta.

Images on local media showed the plane resting on a snow-covered area with its nose smashed through a chain-link fence and jutting out over an embankment at the edge of the icy bay.

But the plane never made contact with the water after veering off the tarmac more than halfway down the 7,000-foot runway, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the airport's operator.

"I think the pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft down," Foye said at a news conference. "Obviously, the pilot's and the co-pilot's good efforts were reflected in the fact that there were only minor injuries."

There were only two minor injuries reported, though that number may change, he said.

One of the passengers aboard the jet was Larry Donnell, a professional football player with the New York Giants.

"We were all shocked and alarmed when the plane started to skid, but most importantly, as far as I know, all of the passengers and flight crew were able to exit the plane safely," the tight end said in a statement released by the team.

Earlier in the day, the Port Authority had said there were 125 passengers on the plane, but that number was later revised upward.

"GOOD BRAKING ACTION"

Foye said that two aircraft landed on the runaway just before the incident and reported "good braking action."

Heavy snow was falling over most of the New York City area at the time of the mishap, but officials did not make any statement about a possible cause.

Runways at LaGuardia, the smallest of the New York area's three main airports, were closed soon after the incident, a routine procedure when such incidents occur. A minor fuel spill from the jet was quickly contained, Foye said.

The airport had been expected to reopen at 7 p.m. EST, the same time as a winter storm warning was to be lifted, the FAA said, but Foye later said that one of the runaways would start operating again at 2 p.m. EST.

Delta, which operates a hub at LaGuardia, said in a statement that it would work with all authorities to look into what happened, and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.

Delta shares were down 1.9 percent at $44.28 in Thursday afternoon trading.

Following the close call, some passengers on the plane took to social media.

"I felt for sure that we were going into that water. Thankfully, we did not," a passenger who identified himself as Aaron Smith wrote on Twitter.

LaGuardia Airport, in the New York City borough of Queens, has been the scene of two previous crashes involving wintry weather in recent history.

On March 2, 1994, Continental Airlines flight 705 bound for Denver aborted takeoff during a snowstorm and slid off the runway into a ditch. There were no fatalities, although 29 people were injured.

Two years earlier, USAir Flight 405 headed for Cleveland crashed into Flushing Bay during a snowy takeoff at LaGuardia, killing 27 people of the 51 on board. The crash was later blamed on icing on its wings.

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jeffrey Dastin, writing by Frank McGurty; editing by Doina Chiacu, Bill Trott and G Crosse)