Caribbean Airlines Jet Crashes in Guyana and Splits in Two

None of the 163 passengers were killed.

ByABC News
July 30, 2011, 2:55 PM

July 30, 2011 — -- A Caribbean Airlines jet en route from New York crashed in Guyana today and split in two upon hitting the runway, but none of the 163 people on board were killed.

About 100 people received medical attention for injuries, which included broken legs and scratches. Several passengers are still hospitalized, local officials said.

There appears to have been no fire after the crash, allowing passengers to exit the plane safely. People said they scrambled out through the emergency exit and over the wings.

The plane overshot the 7,400-foot (2,200-meter) runway at Cheddi Jagan International Airport, crashing through a chain-link airport fence and ending up on a dirt road around the airport. The plane broke in two just before reaching a 200-foot ravine.

There were no emergency vehicles immediately available. It was 1:30 a.m. and dark and rainy outside.

"The first thing I think of when I see an accident like this is they landed too fast, too long down the runway or they hydroplaned and certainly when there is water on the runway that is one of the principle things you think about," said ABC News aviation consultant John Nance.

One passenger said a taxi driver actually came up and took her to the terminal, but he wanted $20 for the ride.

Guyana's airport remained closed Saturday morning as officials conducted investigations. Local officials have asked the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to assist in the investigation. The plane was a U.S.-made Boeing 737-800, so the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to head down to the crash site to assist to try to figure out what went wrong.

Sources in Guyana say they are ruling out weather as a factor in the crash. The plane's black boxes have been recovered, which will help to figure out the cause of the crash.

"Investigators are first going to consider hydroplaning, where you are going so fast on water because it is a wet runway you don't have any breaking effectiveness. This can also be exacerbated by landing too far down the runway or too fast," said Nance.

"No question when you are looking at accidents on the backside of the clock one of the key questions is was the crew tired either directly or cumulatively tired over time. These things can be very important in figuring out exactly what happened," Nance added.

"We are very, very grateful that more people were not injured," said President Bharrat Jagdeo, who came to the crash site before dawn.

"It was serious and all the plane practically broke in two, so we should be very grateful for that," said Jagdeo.

This crash is apparently one of the few serious accidents involving Caribbean Airlines, which is based in Trinidad, according to the Associated Press.

Accidents in which planes run off the side or end of a runway are the most common type of runway mishap. About 30 occur every year worldwide, most on landing.

It happened in Jamaica in 2009 and Little Rock Arkansas in 1999, where 11 died. Luckily most of these accidents are not fatal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.