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Cheddi Jagan International Airport Guyana

Caribbean Airlines jet from New York overshot runway

Jul 30, 2011

The applause suddenly “turned to screams,” said Geeta Ramsingh, 41, of Philadelphia. She said she hopped on the wing and then into the road outside the runway fence, apparently suffering only bruises.

A Caribbean Airlines jet from New York overshot a rainy runway, slid through a chain-link fence, and broke apart just short of a ravine on Saturday.

Several dozen people were injured, but no one was killed among the 163 people on board, officials said.

About 100 people received medical attention for injuries, which included broken legs and scratches. Several passengers are still hospitalized, local officials said.

There appears to have been no fire after the crash, allowing passengers to exit the plane safely. People said they scrambled out through the emergency exit and over the wings.

The plane overshot the 7,400-foot (2,200-meter) runway at Cheddi Jagan International Airport, crashing through a chain-link airport fence and ending up on a dirt road around the airport. The plane broke in two just before reaching a 200-foot ravine.

There were no emergency vehicles immediately available. It was 1:30 am and dark and rainy outside.

Passengers aboard the plane, a Boeing 737-800, said they had begun to applaud the pilot’s landing in Guyana just after midnight when things went wrong.

About 100 people were injured, four seriously, said Devant Maharaj, the transportation minister in Trinidad, where Caribbean Airlines is based.

The plane, which departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, stopped in Trinidad before landing in Guyana. The airline said it was carrying 157 passengers and 6 crew members.

Sources in Guyana say they are ruling out weather as a factor in the crash. The plane's black boxes have been recovered, which will help to figure out the cause of the crash.

"Investigators are first going to consider hydroplaning, where you are going so fast on water because it is a wet runway you don't have any breaking effectiveness. This can also be exacerbated by landing too far down the runway or too fast," said Nance.

"No question when you are looking at accidents on the backside of the clock, one of the key questions is, was the crew tired, either directly or cumulatively tired, over time. These things can be very important in figuring out exactly what happened," Nance added.

"We are very, very grateful that more people were not injured," said President Bharrat Jagdeo, who came to the crash site before dawn.

"It was serious and all the plane practically broke in two, so we should be very grateful for that," said Jagdeo.

This crash is apparently one of the few serious accidents involving Caribbean Airlines, which is based in Trinidad, according to the Associated Press.

Accidents in which planes run off the side or end of a runway are the most common type of runway mishap. About 30 occur every year worldwide, most on landing.

It happened in Jamaica in 2009 and Little Rock Arkansas in 1999, where 11 died. Luckily most of these accidents are not fatal.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Mr. Jagdeo said he had asked the United States National Transportation Safety Board to help investigate.

Caribbean Airlines jet from New York overshot runway
The broken fuselage of a Caribbean Airlines' Boeing 737-800 is seen after it crashed (AP)

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