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PLANE CRASH AT AIRPORT - 145 passengers escape death after plane overruns runway at Norman Manley

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by Jamaica star

Dwayne McLeod and Rasbert Turner, STAR Writers

Accident survivors are rushed into the casualty department of the Kingston Public Hospital at midnight. - Ricardo Makyn

One hundred and forty-five persons almost lost their lives last night after American Airlines flight 331 overshot the runway at the Norman Manley International Airport and crashed inches away from the Caribbean Sea.

Reports are that the aircraft, with the passengers and seven crew members aboard missed the runway about 10:20 p.m. Airport officials say the Boeing 738 plane was arriving from Miami when the incident occurred.

poor visibility

Airport officials say poor visibility may have caused the incident. The aircraft is said to have then plunged through some fencing, into a lighthouse and other infrastructure, causing severe damage to the aircraft and injuries to those aboard. The airport was also closed shortly after the incident and would remain closed until further notice.

Flight 331 took off from Miami International Airport at 8:52 p.m. and arrived at Norman Manley International Airport at 10:22 p.m. It originated at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

"All passengers were off the plane that normally carries 140 people plus the crew," said American Airlines spokesman Charley Wilson.

More than 40 persons were said to be seriously hurt and efforts had to be initiated to transport a number of injured passengers to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) in downtown Kingston and the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew.

When THE STAR visited the KPH, three of the passengers with cuts and bruises to their lips were seen exiting emergency vehicles.

Passenger Pilar Abaurrea described a chaotic scene as the plane skidded along the runway in heavy rain.

"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," Abaurrea of Keene, told The Associated Press.

The Palisadoes strip leading to the Norman Manley International Airport was cordoned off shortly after the incident with only emergency vehicles being given access to the area.

Meanwhile, Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson said the authorities had the situation under control. He said the plane was still at the crash site and the scene had been secured.

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