US New York Guyana 7.30 Boeing 737-800 Airplane Crash Lands

The broken fuselage of a Caribbean Airlines’ Boeing 737-800 is seen after it crashed at the end of the runway at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Timehri, Guyana, NY, Saturday July 30, 2011. The Caribbean Airlines flight 523 from New York touched down on the rainy runway, slid through a chain-link fence and broke apart just short of a ravine but there were no immediate reports of death among the 163 people aboard, despite several dozen of injuries.

Flight 523 from New York had just touched down and passengers were applauding the pilot’s landing in the South American country Saturday when something suddenly went wrong.

The Boeing 737-800 slid off the end of a rainy runway, crashed through a chain-link fence and broke in half just short of a deep ravine. Yet all 163 people on board survived.

Officials were starting to probe the cause of the crash even as they marveled at the lack of fatalities.

“We must be the luckiest country and luckiest set of people in the world to escape so lightly,” said Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy, who said more than 30 people were taken to the hospital. Only three of those had to be admitted for a broken leg, bumps, cuts and bruises.

Adis Cambridge, 42, of Guyana, said she felt the thump of a hard landing but did not think much of it until seconds later.

“I realized that everything was on top of me, people and bags. I was the second to last person to get off that plane in the dark,” she said, surrounded by her two young children who had come to the airport to meet her after a brief holiday in the U.S.

The Caribbean Airlines plane had left John F. Kennedy International Airport Friday evening and made a stop in Trinidad before landing in Guyana. The airline said it was carrying 157 passengers and six crew members.

“We must be the luckiest country and luckiest set of people in the world to escape so lightly,” said Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy, who said more than 30 people were taken to the hospital. Only three of those had to be admitted for a broken leg, bumps, cuts and bruises.

The Caribbean Airlines plane had left John F. Kennedy International Airport Friday evening and made a stop in Trinidad before landing in Guyana. The airline said it was carrying 157 passengers and six crew members.

George Nicholas, Caribbean Airlines chairman, told reporters that officials with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board are scheduled to arrive Sunday in Guyana to take over the investigation. He said investigators from Guyana and Trinidad, the airline’s base, will help.

Authorities temporarily closed the Guyana airport, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded and delaying dozens of flights. The main terminal reopened late Saturday morning to only a couple of small planes, including a LIAT airline bound for Barbados, said Orin Walton, a local representative for the Antigua-based carrier.

The crash of Flight 523 is the worst in recent history in Guyana, and only one of the few serious incidents involving the Trinidad-based airline. It is the single largest carrier in the region, operating at least five daily flights.

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