A charter plane carrying 143 people and traveling from Cuba to north Florida sits in a river at the end of a runway, Saturday, May 4, 2019 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Boeing 737 arriving at Naval Air Station Jacksonville from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with 136 passengers and seven aircrew slid off the runway Friday night into the St. Johns River, a NAS Jacksonville news release said. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Photo: Gary McCullough/AP
Photo: Gary McCullough/AP

Rescuers tried to get pets off submerged airplane several times, commanding officer says

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Commanding officer Michael Connor said rescuers checked for the pets, which were in the cargo area of the plane, immediately after all the human passengers were rescued.

He said rescuers didn't hear any noise coming from below and could not see the crates.

He said conditions were too dangerous for rescuers to be able to get inside.

“Initial responders did look inside the cargo bay. They did not see anything, they did not hear any animal noises. They couldn’t see any crates,” he said. “So at that point, for their own safety and not knowing if the aircraft might sink and risk their lives, they backed out.”

Connor said he asked first responders to go back and check again. At that point, they still did not see any crates above the water.

An NAS Jax spokesperson said four pets were listed on the flight manifest, but the exact number of animals that were actually on the plane is unknown right now.

She said it is still unsafe for crews to get inside the cargo bay. They will have to wait until the plane is removed from the water. No timeline for that has been set.

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