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Delta plane skids on landing at LaGuardia, stopping feet from icy water

A Delta Air Lines jet skidded on landing at LaGuardia Airport during a winter storm on Thursday, then crashed through a fence before coming to a stop feet from the icy water, officials said.

There were 127 passengers and five crew members aboard Delta Flight 1086, an MD-88 that arrived in New York from Atlanta at about 11:05 a.m. local time. It traveled thousands of feet down Runway 13, veered to the left and crashed through the chain-link fence that separates the airport from Flushing Bay.

The plane came to rest on an embankment, nose perilously poised over the frigid waters as passengers and crew evacuated in the snow.

Officials said there 28 minor injuries reported, including five passengers who were taken to a hospital for treatment.

Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, praised the pilot and crew for acting quickly and keeping the injury toll relatively light.

“I think the pilot did everything he could to slow the plane down,” Foye told reporters at a news conference. “Those good efforts are reflected by the fact there were only minor injuries.”

There was no immediate cause for the accident, which will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Foye said he would not speculate about what caused the incident, but noted that two other flights had landed without problem just minutes before the Delta flight. Those pilots reported “good braking action” on that same runway, he said.

Poor weather had forced airports in the United States to cancel nearly 2,700 flights on Thursday. LaGuardia had canceled more than 800 flights by evening, according to Flightstats.com, a website that monitors airline delays and cancellations. Across the U.S., more than 4,000 flights were cancelled.

There was also a minor spill of fuel from the plane, about one gallon a minute, Foye said. The fluid was quickly contained by the first responders who arrived just minutes after the plane came to a stop.

Gail Grimmett, a senior vice president of Delta, told the briefing that the passengers had begun leaving the airport by early afternoon to be reunited with their families or to continue their business in New York.

Two runways were closed at the airport, but one was reopened within hours. The second runway could reopen by evening.

LaGuardia is known for its relatively short runways and its outdated infrastructure. The airport's two runways are about 7,000 feet long; the runways at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, by comparison, are 8,400 to more than 14,000 feet long.

In 1989, a USAir jet rolled off the end of a runway into the East River while aborting a takeoff, killing two passengers.

The last mishap at La Guardia occurred in July 2013, when the nose gear of a Southwest Airlines flight collapsed upon landing. Eleven people on board were hurt.

“The first indication (that something was wrong) was literally within a second or two of the wheels hitting the ground of the runway and you knew there was going to be a problem because it was not getting the traction and grab that you typically feel when the wheels touch down,” passenger Jared Faellaci told WABC-TV. “And obviously the skidding started and that continued for close to 20 seconds.”

“We’re skidding and I did not know when it was going to stop – was it going to stop in the water or before the water? I was holding onto the seat in front of me and I was praying and it literally stopped just a few feet from the water as you can see from the photos.”

“Obviously, it was quite scary and caused people to reflect. Some people were frantic, some people cried, others prayed,” he said.

Staff writers Tina Susman in New York and Hugo Martin and Michael Muskal in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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