Dozens injured as US jet overshoots Jamaica runway

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The Independent US

An American Airlines flight from Miami overshot a runway and broke in two during a heavy rainstorm in Kingston, Jamaica early today, injuring dozens of people.

There were no reports of deaths.

Flight 331 took off from Miami International Airport at 8.52pm yesterday local time (1.52am GMT) and arrived at Norman Manley International Airport at 10.22pm (3.22am GMT). It originated at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC.

Jamaican information minister Daryl Vaz said "the airplane is broken in two" and 29 people were taken to Kingston Public Hospital. He said others were treated at the airport.

Those getting off the plane were bleeding, mostly from the upper parts of their bodies. The majority of those aboard were Jamaicans going home for Christmas, Vaz said.

All passengers were off the Boeing 737-800, which was carrying 148 passengers and a crew of six.

Four people were seriously injured, said Paul Hall, senior vice president of airport operations.

The plane's fuselage was cracked, its right engine broke off from the impact and the left main landing gear collapsed, said Tim Smith, an American Airlines spokesman at the company's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Most of the injuries were cuts and bruises and none were life threatening, he said.

The airport has not reopened because of concerns that the plane's tail might be hindering visibility, security minister Dwight Nelson told Radio Jamaica.

Some 400 passengers were waiting for their flights to be cleared for takeoff, he said.

Passenger Pilar Abaurrea of Keene, New Hampshire, described a chaotic scene as the plane skidded along the runway in heavy rain.

She said: saying: "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."

Kingston policeman Oneil Hinds said officers at the scene reported that the plane ran off the end of the runway.

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.

Ms Abaurrea said she had pain in her neck and back from the impact and her husband had pain in his shoulder caused by falling luggage, but were otherwise unhurt. "I'm a little bit shook up but OK," she said.

She said the entire flight was very turbulent, with the crew being forced to halt the beverage service three times before finally giving it up.

Just before landing the pilot warned of more turbulence but said it probably would not be much worse than what they had experienced so far.