737 Slides Off Runway

A Southwest Airlines jet landed and slipped off the end of the runway at Midway Airport in Chicago tonight. The passenger jet came to rest at the corner of 55th and Cicero after sliding through a fence and crashing into a car. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been sitting in a rental car at that very corner.

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A young boy died at the scene.

A 6-year-old boy in one of the vehicles was killed, authorities said. He was among eight people hurt on the ground. Two passengers on the plane suffered minor injuries, Aviation Department spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.

Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 from Baltimore was landing at Midway International Airport with 98 passengers and five crew around 7:15 Thursday night when it slid through the fence. The airport area had 7 inches of snow, but Abrams said runway conditions at the time were acceptable.

The landing seemed normal at first, passenger Larry Vazzano said. “There was a bump. I saw snow rush over the wing, then there was a big bump,” said Vazzano, 54, of Baltimore. “I braced myself on the seat in front of me.”

Mike Abate, 35, of suburban Milwaukee, said he could see from the plane that a man was carrying an injured child and that other people were being taken away in an ambulance. “We were safe on the plane,” Abate said. “The toughest part was to realize that someone was under the belly of the plane.”

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the plane had circled Midway for 30 to 35 minutes because of the weather and the flight traffic before it was cleared for landing on the airport’s 6,500-foot runway.

He would not speculate on what could have caused the accident but said the plane’s captain had been flying for about 10 years.

“There are no indications that there are any maintenance problems with that aircraft whatsoever,” Kelly said. He said the plane had just had a service check in Phoenix on Wednesday.

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