(CNN) — A Delta airplane slid off a runway late Thursday morning at New York’s LaGuardia airport, its nose busting through a fence before skidding to a halt mere feet from icy waters.
Delta Flight 1086 briefly circled New York City due to issues with snow and ice before touching down shortly after 11 a.m., passenger Jared Faellaci told CNN. Almost as soon as it did, those aboard realized something was wrong — the aircraft’s wheels had little to no traction on the runway, causing it to skid approximately 20 seconds before mercifully stopping.
“You didn’t feel the wheels take,” Faellaci said. “Then it was (a matter of) where we are going to end up.”
The MD-88 stopped just in time, allowing all 131 passengers and crew members to safely get off onto the snow-covered ground, rather than the frigid waters that surround the airport.
Passengers used slides to deplane, then boarded buses that took them to LaGuardia’s Delta terminal, the airline said in a statement. Video showed passengers exiting the plane into the sub-freezing temperatures, as emergency vehicles converged on the area.
Twenty-four people suffered non-life-threatening injuries, three of whom were transported to nearby hospitals, New York’s fire department tweeted.
Faellaci, for one, was thankful to the plane’s crew, first responders and God that it wasn’t much worse.
“It was cause for a moment of prayer and a moment of reflection, as people were scared,” he said. “The pilot did a phenomenal job.”
Passenger: Some were calm, others were frantic
The story began in relatively balmy Atlanta, from which the plane took off shortly after 9 a.m..
About two hours later as the flight approached its destination, LaGuardia was dealing with snow and freezing fog.
Prior to touching down, the plane’s pilot said weather problems could cause a delay. Still,little prepared passengers for what happened, an incident that Faellaci said had him thinking about the U.S. Airways plane that landed in the Hudson River in 2009. All 155 people aboard that flight, which was also heading to LaGuardia (from Charlotte), survived thanks to the skills of pilot C.B. Sullenberger.
That might have been considered a happy ending for Flight 1086 in the frightful few seconds it skid on LaGuardia’s runway.
“There were people that were calm, there were people that were praying, there were people that obviously were frantic, there were people that were crying,” Faellaci recalled.
LaGuardia airport shuts down
Emotions were similarly charged after the plane stopped. Faellaci said there was some “panic and shoving your way to the front” to get off, though “for the most part it was very orderly.”
Passengers spent a few minutes standing in the snow — carrying little more than their wallets and phones — before buses took them into the warmth and comfort of the terminal.
Those who were catching connecting flights at LaGuardia won’t be flying anywhere anytime soon.
Four minutes after their plane landed, all of LaGuardia airport shut down to air traffic. And it will remain that way until 7 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration reports.
The incident also caused a fuel leak, though Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials said that had been contained by 12:25 p.m.
Air travel nightmare
The incident makes an already nightmarish air travel situation on much of the East Coast even worse.
That’s because LaGuardia is not the only airport experiencing headaches because of the wintry weather. Both New York’s Kennedy Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, in northern New Jersey, were experiencing midday delays of more than three hours because of snow and ice, the FAA reported.
The worst off late Wednesday morning was Dallas Fort-Worth, where more than 400 departing (and another 400 arriving) flights were canceled, according to the flight tracking website, FlightAware. LaGuardia, though, outpaced that number later Wednesday afternoon.
In all, FlightAware reported the cancellation of more than 4,160 flights within, into and out of the United States as of 1:45 p.m.