The landing gear of a Southwest Airlines jet collapsed after it landed at New York’s La Guardia Airport Monday evening, injuring more than 10 people onboard and temporarily closing one of the nation’s busiest airports, authorities said.
Southwest Flight 345 was landing at LaGuardia from Nashville about 5:40 p.m. when the accident occurred. The nose of the blue-and-orange jet came to rest on the ground after the aircraft came to a stop, and passengers evacuated the aircraft on emergency slides.
Southwest said the plane carried a total of 150 passengers and crew, but it did not provide a breakdown. Southwest said in a statement that five passengers and three flight attendants had reported injuries, which were not specified.
“The aircraft skidded down the runway on its nose and then veered off and came to rest in a grass area between the runway and taxiway foxtrot,” Thomas Bosco, the airport’s general manager, told reporters. It stopped about halfway down the 7,000-foot runway.
Aviation officials halted all takeoffs and landings at LaGuardia after the crash about 5.45pm on Monday. The Federal Aviation Administration said held all flights to LaGuardia for over an hour – delaying thousands of fliers.
According to the Associated Press, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey temporarily closed the airport, with one of runways later reopening. In a press conference, the Port Authority said they hoped to have everything reopened Tuesday.
The FAA said the airport remains open but flights headed to LaGuardia would be held at their origins until at least 9 p.m.
A Port Authority spokesperson said that passengers should be prepared for “major delays” because one of the two runways would remain closed indefinitely.
Passengers were forced to stay in their seats and wait aboard the plane for more than 45 minutes before they could be evacuated.
Everyone was evacuated safely within an hour of the landing – sliding down the inflatable chutes that extended from the doorways.
It is unclear what caused the malfunction. The rear landing gear on the plane extended normally, says the Daily Mail.
An airport official said there was no advance warning of a problem. But a passenger who said the flight was delayed leaving Nashville told The Associated Press there had been an announcement that “something was wrong with a tire.”
“The plane was sparking . . . . People were screaming,” said Rolando Ochoa, 38.
Fellow passenger Anastasia Elliot said the situation was “pretty chaotic.”
“We hit the ground pretty hard and slid,” she said. “There was a lot of smoke filling the plane, just a lot of smoke and burnt rubber.”
As the Wall Street Journal reports, overall, air travel in recent years has had its strongest safety record since the dawn of the jet age.
The incident at La Guardia comes after a recent cluster of high-profile commercial aviation accidents in July, including the crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that killed three in San Francisco, a fire aboard a parked and empty Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow Airport in London and a gear-up landing of a Russian Sukhoi regional jet on a test flight in Iceland on Sunday that injured one of the five aboard.