Pets on Boeing 737 plane that skidded into Florida river presumed dead

There are likely no surviving pets on the military-chartered jet that skidded into the river at Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, officials said.

National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Bruce Landsberg said Saturday that investigators will examine the aircraft, the environment and human factors in trying to discover why the plane rolled into the St. Johns River after landing at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Authorities said the Boeing 737 had no prior accidents.

Authorities say rescuers who searched for pets aboard a chartered jet that ran off a runway at a Florida military base and into a river didn't see any pet carrier above the water line.

Capt. Michael Connor, Naval Air Station Jacksonville's commander, said Saturday that the Boeing 737 carried two cats and a dog. He said the animals have yet to be found on the aircraft.

A navy statement early Saturday says safety issues have prevented rescuers from retrieving the animals aboard the chartered Boeing 737, which carried 143 people Friday night from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The statement offers "hearts and prayers" to the pet owners.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to those pet owners during this terrible incident," NAS Jacksonville said in a Facebook post.

Connor says rescuers looked in the cargo area after the plane ended up in the St. Johns River but saw no crates and heard no animal noises. When they returned later, they didn't see any pet carriers above water.

Landsberg says the plane hit a seawall made of stones Friday night before coming to a rest in the river.
The pavement on the runway wasn't grooved and Landsberg says investigators will look at how that played a role with reported heavy rain during the landing. He said grooves can help the water flow off the pavement more quickly.

Landsberg says the fact that the plane is partially in water presents a challenge.

Among the plane's 143 passengers and crew, authorities say a 3-month baby was the only passenger hospitalized and the infant was only admitted for observation as a precautionary measure.
Federal investigators have taken possession of the flight data recorder from the chartered jet.

The plane remains stuck in shallow water.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.