D/FW AIRPORT — American Airlines is praising its flight crew after everyone survived a crash landing in Jamaica that could have ended in multiple deaths.
Both of the jet's engine's tore off and the fuselage broke into three pieces as Flight 331 overshot a runway and made a crash landing during a rainstorm at the Kingston airport late Tuesday night, but every passenger and crew member escaped the crash alive.
The flight originated in Washington D.C. and headed for Miami. It was on the second leg of the trip to Kingston when it crashed.
The nose of the Boeing 737 stopped just 10 feet from the edge of the Caribbean Sea.
A federal source told News 8 the plane may have been landing with the wind behind it — a tricky maneuver even for an experienced pilot.
Some passengers were not sure they would survive the landing.
"We just felt a big crash and an alarm went off; we felt a big impact," said Loana Brown. "We realized the plane had crashed."
American Airlines said seven people were taken to the hospital; none were seriously injured.
The Associated Press reported, however, that 92 people were taken to hospitals and 13 were admitted. One woman had surgery for a broken nose and cuts to her face.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said 76 of the passengers were Americans.
The Fort Worth-based airline credits the experience of its seasoned pilots and crew for preventing more injuries and death.
"Our crews did an admirable job taking care of our customers and making sure they got off the aircraft. They did a great job," said American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely.
American said other airlines were also landing in Kingston Tuesday night and its pilots chose not to divert to another airport, which was an option during the storm.
"Setting an airplane down in a heavy rainstorm means you've got a lot of standing water," aviation expert John Nance explained. "Even if the runway is grooved to drain the water, the tires are floating for a while on a thin film of water and you can't get any traction to help stop."
The pilots will be taken off-duty until the investigation by U.S. and Jamaican officials concludes.
News 8 has learned that part of that investigation will focus on whether the pilots were using a display system which graphically shows them when to set the plane down.