Jetliner slides off runway and through fence at Chicago’s Midway Airport
CHICAGO – A jetliner trying to land in heavy snow slid off a runway, crashed through a fence and slid into a busy street, hitting one vehicle and pinning another beneath it.A 6-year-old boy in one of the vehicles was killed, authorities said. He was among eight people hurt on the ground. Two passengers on the plane suffered minor injuries, Aviation Department spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 from Baltimore was landing at Midway International Airport with 98 passengers and five crew. The airport reported 7 inches of snow Thursday, but Abrams said runway conditions at the time were acceptable.The nose of the plane was crushed in the 7:15 p.m. accident and a severely damaged engine was on the ground, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.”It got really bumpy, and then a big crashing sound,” passenger Katie Duda told WMAQ-TV. The next thing she knew, the airplane had skidded past the airport and into the street, she said.”Everyone was very calm. Everyone around me seemed very OK,” she said.The passengers used inflatable slides to get out of the plane in the blowing snow.All the injured on the ground were in the two vehicles. The 6-year-old boy was dead on arrival at Advocate Christ Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.Midway was closed after the accident, and Abrams said she did not know when it would reopen.The Boeing 737 slid through the northwest corner of the airport, through the boundary fence and into the road, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s regional office in Chicago. Langford said at least two vehicles were damaged, and one was pinned under the plane.Midway, Chicago’s second largest after O’Hare International, is closely bordered by streets lined with homes and businesses. It serves more than 17 million travelers a year, many of them on Southwest.National Transportation Safety Board and FAA officials from Washington were on their way to Chicago to investigate.Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the plane had circled Midway for 30 to 35 minutes because of the weather and the flight traffic before it was cleared for landing on the airport’s 6,500-foot runway.He would not speculate on what could have caused the accident but said the plane’s captain had been flying for about 10 years.While Abrams was confident runway conditions were not to blame, James Burnett, a former NTSB chairman, said investigators would likely focus on the weather.”When you’re looking at a runway overrun, it almost always involves a runway condition that’s improper,” Burnett told WFLD-TV. “But that’s not the only thing.”Standard procedure also calls for pilots to be tested immediately after a crash for alcohol in their blood, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said in Washington, D.C.Southwest flies an all-737 fleet with over 400 aircraft.Snow caused troubles for travelers across the Midwest on Thursday, with as much as 10 inches on the ground in some areas.The accident occurred 33 years to the day after a crash at Midway that killed 45 people, two of them on the ground.In that crash, a United Airlines jet struck tree branches about a mile from the airport, then hit the roofs of a number of bungalows before plowing into a home, bursting into flames. Eighteen passengers survived.—Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in Dallas contributed to this report.