'Miracle' as 143 people survive after plane crashes into Florida river
A charter plane carrying 143 people has ended up in a Florida river at the end of a runway, though no critical injuries or deaths were reported.
The Boeing 737 slid off the runway and into the St Johns River after arriving at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, with 136 passengers and seven aircrew on board.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office posted on Twitter that a marine unit responded to assist.
The plane is in shallow water and not submerged. Everyone on the plane is alive and accounted for, the agency posted, with 21 adults transported to local hospitals in good condition.
A photo posted by deputies shows a Miami Air International logo on the plane.
Captain Michael Connor, the commanding officer of NAS Jacksonville, said during a news conference that passengers were a mix of civilian and military personnel. Some were staying in the area, while others were set to fly on to other parts of the country.
While the crash certainly was not ideal, Capt Connor acknowledged that it could have been much worse.
"I think it is a miracle," he said. "We could be talking about a different story this evening."
It is not known how long it will take to remove the plane from the river, but Capt Connor said the landing gear appeared to be resting on the river bed, making it unlikely for the aircraft to float away.
He said crews began working to contain any jet fuel leaks almost immediately after securing the passengers' safety.
Liz Torres told the Florida Times-Union that she heard what sounded like a gunshot on Friday night from her home in Orange Park, about five miles south of NAS Jacksonville. She then drove down to a Target car park where police and firefighters were staging to find out more.
"I've never seen anything like this," she said.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department posted on Twitter that approximately 90 personnel responded to the scene, adding that the department's special operations team had trained with marine units for a similar incident earlier on Friday.
Navy security and emergency response personnel were on the scene and monitoring the situation, with family members who were expecting the arrival of passengers instructed to stand by.
Officials did not immediately say what caused the plane to leave the runway.
Capt Connor said National Transportation Safety Board investigators are already on their way.