“The care of our passengers and crew members is our highest priority, and we will offer all the assistance necessary,” said Gerard Arpey, American Airline’s chairman and chief executive officer regarding American Airlines Flight 331.
On Tuesday, December 22, 2009, AA’s Flight 331, a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, overran the runway on landing at Kingston, Jamaica’s Norman Manley International Airport. The flight originated out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, operated into Miami International Airport, and then operated into Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport.
Preliminary reports indicate there are no critical injuries. The aircraft was carrying 148 passengers and a crew of six.
The plane skidded across a road and halted at the edge of the Caribbean, apparently prevented from going into the water only by the upward slope of the sand. The nose of the jet was less than 3 meters from the water. The plane’s fuselage was cracked, its right engine broke off from the impact and the left main landing gear collapsed, said an American Airlines spokesman at the company’s headquarters in Texas. Most of the injuries were cuts and bruises and none were life threatening, though he had no details, he said.
According to Daryl Vaz, Jamaica’s Information Minister, some 44 passengers were taken to nearby hospitals with broken bones and back pains. Those getting off the plane were bleeding, mostly from the upper parts of their bodies.
Pilar Abaurrea, one of the passengers, described the chaos as the plane hit the ground with a loud crash and skidded along the runway.
“All of a sudden when it hit the ground, the plane was kind of bouncing; someone said the plane was skidding and there was panic,” said Ms. Abaurrea of Keene, New Hampshire.
As the crew opened the emergency exits and people scrambled to get off, 62-year-old Ms. Abaurrea and her husband, Gary Wehrwein, noticed a number of people with injuries, including one person who had a cut on his head from falling baggage.
She said she had pain in her neck and back from the impact, and her husband had pain in a shoulder from falling luggage, but both were otherwise unhurt. “I’m a little bit shook up but okay,” she said.
Ms. Abaurrea said the flight was very turbulent, with the crew forced to halt trolley service three times before finally giving up. Just before landing, the pilot warned of more turbulence but said it likely wouldn’t be much worse than what they had experienced so far, she said.
American Airlines is in direct contact with officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration and is cooperating fully with appropriate authorities. American Airlines cannot speculate as to possible causes of the incident. At this point, no additional details can be confirmed.