December 9, 2005

Plane slides off Chicago runway, boy killed

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Southwest Airlines plane landing in a
snowstorm in Chicago slid off a runway on Thursday and crashed
through a fence and onto a busy road, colliding with two cars.
A boy in one of them was killed.

The Boeing 737, which had flown to Midway Airport from
Baltimore with 98 passengers and five crew, ended up in an
intersection with its nose on the ground after the front gear
collapsed, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

At least two vehicles collided with the plane, Chicago Fire
Commissioner Cortez Trotter said.

"One of the cars was under the side of the plane, under one
of the wings. The other was near the nose of the plane,"
Trotter said.

A 6-year-old boy riding in one of the cars died, according
to a local hospital. The boy's two younger brothers and parents
also were injured, a hospital official said.

Of the 11 injured, four were in the other vehicle and three
were passengers on the plane that were "shook up" and taken to
hospitals, Trotter said.

A witness, Marie Valasquez, told FOX-TV she heard "a loud
screeching noise. I thought it was a semi (truck) that had
crashed and didn't expect to see the Southwest plane out

The FAA said the plane landed on runway 31-C, which is
roughly 6,000 feet long and among the longest at the compact
airport, which is surrounded by roads and residential areas.
Midway was closed after the accident.

Trotter said some fuel had spilled but was quickly
contained by emergency crews.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate
the accident and had requested the plane be left where it is
until its investigators arrive, Trotter said.

Southwest, which has an excellent safety record, confirmed
the accident in a news release and provided a telephone number
for people to check on relatives.

The storm, which dropped more than half a foot of snow on
the city, had delayed hundreds of flights at the larger of
Chicago's two main airports, O'Hare International, authorities

A similar accident in March 2000 involved another Southwest
jetliner that ran off the runway at Burbank airport in
California, ran through a fence and came to rest on a street.

This summer in Toronto, an Air France jetliner ran off the
runway in a rainstorm and burst into flames. There were no
deaths in either accident.

(Additional reporting by John Crawley and JoAnne Allen in