NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — John F. Kennedy Airport was closed for about two hours Sunday morning after a plane skidded off an icy runway into a snow bank.
Delta Connection Flight 4100, which was operated by Endeavor Air and carrying 35 people, had just landed from Toronto around 8 a.m. Sunday and had turned onto a taxiway when the incident occurred, Port Authority officials said. No injuries were reported.
As CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell reported Sunday night, cellphone photos showed emergency crews trying to clear a path for the plane moments after it skidded off the runway.
“It could have been worse, a much worse scenario,” Jordan Houlton told reporters after he emerged from the plane.
The CRJ2 aircraft was towed back from the taxiway back to the gate with passengers on board. The plane sustained minor damage.
Houlton, a 27-year-old teacher in Mexico, said he managed to sleep through the slide and didn’t learn until later that the plane had skidded off course.
“I was sleeping. I woke up and it was 9:30,” Houlton said. “A police officer came on to make sure everyone was OK. Luckily, everyone was OK. It was kind of wild. I still can’t believe it.”
Crews worked to salt and sand the runways. During the closure, flights bound for Kennedy were diverted to other airports, including eight that landed at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.
“Certainly, it’s a serious issue, but at the speeds in which this aircraft perhaps was moving, it did not surprise me that there were no injuries,” said CBS News transportation consultant Mark Ronsenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Aviation experts said slick conditions were likely to blame for the accident.
“You hit some ice, the pilot is practically helpless,” said aviation expert John Tristani, “and the aircraft, just by momentum, is going to continue in whatever direction it was pointed.”
The shutdown made for frustrated travelers.
“Our plane actually had to circle for about an hour; wasn’t able to could land,” said traveler Jeffrey Parise.
“I was supposed to be here at 9,” added traveler Maria Rodriguez. “What time is it? It’s almost 1.”
Fred from Connecticut, who was waiting to board a flight bound for Seoul, South Korea, said the incident was being blown out of proportion.
“Should they go out and do something on the end of the runway? Yeah,” he told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria. “Is it that big of a deal? No. I mean, look at the weather reports they give us these days. They want us to watch and get all excited. It’s just way overdone.”
Rick from Russia agreed that, when it comes to cold weather, Americans get excited over very little.
“It’s more snow in Russia,” he said. “When it snows here, it seems like people are not ready for the snow here and that everything is collapsed.”
During the downtime, eight flights bound for JFK were diverted to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.
The landing came two days after a major snowstorm dumped a half foot of snow in New York City, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and stranding passengers both in the city and throughout the world who were heading to New York. Passengers from canceled flights continued to fill the few remaining seats on many planes already crowded by holiday travelers.
Anna told WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola that she was stranded in Newark while trying to return home to Cleveland. She went to JFK on Saturday morning, thinking she finally had a flight home.
“Then I came here to fly yesterday at 7 o’clock, and they canceled my flight at 9:01,” she said. “And now, we board on the plane (Sunday). We were ready to take off, and then they shut down the entire airport.”
The shutdown left many terminals crowded, as weary passengers waited for their flights.
“There are just a bunch of people sleeping and trying to keep time, because they don’t have anything to do,” said traveler Lorenzo Bruno.
When the airport reopened, most departing flights were experiencing delays of up to an hour and a half, but by noon, the delays were 15 minutes or less, according to the FAA website.
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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)