A jetliner trying to land in heavy snow slid off a runway, crashed through a boundary fence and slid into a busy street, hitting one vehicle and pinning another beneath it Thursday. A child in one of the vehicles was killed. Two passengers on the Boeing 737 suffered minor injuries, and eight people in the two vehicles were hurt, authorities said. The child was dead on arrival at the hospital, a spokeswoman said. Midway International Airport was closed indefinitely after the incident, Aviation Department spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said. Ninety-eight passengers and five crew members were on board Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, the carrier said.
"It got really bumpy, and then a big crashing sound," passenger Katie Duda told WMAQ-TV. The next thing she knew, she said, the airplane was past the airport and in the street. "Everyone was very calm. Everyone around me seemed very OK," she said. She said the passengers used inflatable slides to get out of the plane in the blowing snow. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 from Baltimore to Chicago slid off the runway at the northwest corner of the airport, through the boundary fence and into the roadway.
The airplane's nose was crushed and a severely damaged engine was on the ground, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. A Southwest Airlines spokesman could not immediately provide additional information. Southwest flies an all-737 fleet with more than 400 aircraft.
National Transportation Safety Board and FAA officials from Washington were on the way to Chicago to investigate. James Burnett, a former NTSB chairman, said investigators would likely examine such factors as weather, instrumentation, engines and runway operations, in particular whether snow removal was adequate.
"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."
Midway reported 7 inches (18 centimeters) of snow Thursday, but Abrams said runway conditions at the time were acceptable. The airport, Chicago's second largest, is closely bordered by streets lined with homes and businesses. Midway serves more than 17 million travelers a year, many of them on Southwest.
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, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 533 was instructed by the control tower to execute a "missed approach" pattern. The pilot applied full power to go around for another landing attempt, reports the AP. I.L.