NEW YORK – A Delta plane from Atlanta skidded off a LaGuardia Airport runway while landing during a snowstorm on Thursday and crashed through a chain-link fence, its nose coming to rest perilously close to the icy waters of a bay.
The nose was leaning on a berm that separates the runway from Flushing Bay. Passengers saddled with bags and bundled up in heavy coats and scarves were helped down from a wing and onto the snowy pavement, just feet from the water. Everyone was silent as the plane slid, but some children started crying after it came to a stop, passengers said.
“If we wouldn’t have hit the snowbank, we’d be in the water right now,” said Charles Runels, a passenger from Atlanta.
Flight 1086, carrying 125 passengers and five crew members, veered off the runway at around 11:10 a.m., authorities said. Six people had non-life-threatening injuries, and at least two were taken to the hospital, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport.
Malcolm Duckett, a marketing executive from Georgia, said passengers were told they had to exit over the wing because the rear door was too close to the water. Duckett, who was seated near the left wing, climbed onto the right wing and then slid along it until firefighters helped him down.
“We landed pretty hard. I could see the damage to the wing. It was pretty torn up,” he said. “It was riding across a fence for 10 seconds, and once we landed, we landed in the snow.”
Passengers trudged through the snow in an orderly line after climbing off the plane.
LaGuardia is one of the most congested airports in the United States, and its two runways are shorter than those at most other major airports.
Former US Airways pilot John M. Cox, who’s now CEO of consultancy Safety Operating Systems, said LaGuardia’s main runway is “reasonably short” but safe.
At airports with longer runways, pilots will glide a few feet above the runway and gently touch down. At LaGuardia, he said, “you put the airplane on the ground and stop it.”
The runway where the Delta flight landed was plowed and two other pilots reported good braking conditions minutes before the Delta plane landed, said Patrick Foye, the Port Authority’s executive director.
Foye said the Delta pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft. Both runways closed after the crash, but one reopened at 2 p.m.
The aircraft was leaking a gallon of fuel a minute after the crash, but the leak later was stopped, Foye said.
Among the passengers was New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell, who said he felt blessed to be safe after the scary landing.
“We were all shocked and alarmed when the plane started to skid, but most importantly, as far as I know, all of the passengers and flight crew were able to exit the plane safely,” he said by email.
Broadway producer Michael J. Moritz Jr. said he was in the airport lounge commenting on the heavy snow on the runway when the plane came in for landing.
“Landing looked normal, didn’t look abnormally rough at all,” Moritz wrote in an email. “Once on the ground, the plane lost control very quickly, visibility was low.”
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. said passengers were bused to a terminal.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an investigator to retrieve the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders and to document damage to the plane.
The Delta flight landed on LaGuardia’s main runway, which is 7,003 feet long and 150 feet wide. On the right side of the runway are a taxiway and terminals. On the left is the berm, the fence and the bay.
A safety buffer, designed to slow or stop a plane that overruns, undershoots or veers off a runway, was added to the end of the runway in 2005, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The airport has had its share of planes mishaps. In July 2013, the front landing gear of a Southwest Airlines flight collapsed right after it touched down, sending it skidding before it came to a halt. Ten passengers were injured.