Pets Feared Dead As Plane Skids Into River At NAS Jacksonville

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A chartered jet coming from Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba landed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida last evening and wound up in the river after it skidded off the runway. All humans have been accounted for and rescued, but there are several pets who were held in the cargo bay and have not been rescued at the time of this writing.

Marine Unit was called to assist @NASJax_ in reference to a commercial airplane in shallow water. The plane was not submerged. Every person is alive and accounted for.

— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) May 4, 2019

A Boeing 737 chartered to carry 143 people from NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba skidded off the runway as it landed at NAS Jacksonville, and went into the Jones River. While the humans on board were accounted for (21 adults were transported to local hospitals and are in good condition), what is believed to be at least two cats and a dog have not been accounted for and are feared to have drowned in the cargo bay.

Related: Only Dogs and Cats Allowed on United Airlines Flights

Marine units from the sheriff’s department and the Jacksonville, FL Fire Rescue helped first responders from the base, and got all humans off safely. Unfortunately, according to local FirstCoast News, the pets being transported in cargo could not be reached until the plane was removed from the water, and that’s yet to happen.

We cannot say enough what a great job NAS Fire Department and NAS Command did last night in a very difficult situation and under tough circumstances. Proud to assist you on this call. @NASJax_ @CityofJax

— MyJFRD (@JFRDJAX) May 4, 2019

Though the plane was not fully submerged, the cargo bay most certainly was. Responders are calling the survival of all human passengers on board a miracle. The Navy issued a statement that offered thoughts and prayers to the owners of the animals still on board, but said safety issues prevented rescuers from immediately rescuing the animals as well.

The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched investigators to determine what happened, though accounts of thunderstorms and lighting being in the area are possible speculations.

It is unknown how long it will take to remove the plane from the river, and in turn, attempt to recover the pets. Responders said the landing gear looked as if it was resting on the river bed and would make it difficult for the plane to float away.

Related: U.S. Military Service Member Faces Hefty Fare To Bring Dog Home

That said…judging by the pictures, we’re afraid that it also looks like a watery grave for the pets, and speaking as a pet owner and military spouse, I have to wonder why divers were not sent in to recover the pets either. While I’m thankful there were no human deaths, it’s hard enough for military families to find airlines willing to transport their pets as it is. When they can’t feel confident that every effort will be taken to ensure their pets’ safety is taken into account? Where do they turn then?

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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