Last week when the 143 people aboard a charter jet that had skidded off a runway into a river in Florida were safe, we all celebrated. And yet, zero attempts were made to rescue the animals in the cargo section of the plane.

And why not? “Officials at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where the Boeing 737 plane landed in the St. Johns River, posted early Saturday that it had not been able to retrieve any of the pets from the cargo of the plane ‘due to safety issues with the aircraft.'”1

“It was unclear how many pets were aboard when the plane skidded into shallow water Friday night. A source told NBC affiliate WTLV reported that one dog and two cats remained inside the plane as of early Saturday afternoon.

Kaylee LaRocque, public affairs officer at the Naval Air Station, told NBC News that according to the jet’s manifest there were four pets inside the aircraft.”1

However, since the initial first look on Sunday, the bodies of a dog and two cats were recovered. According to Jacksonville Naval Air Station,

“‘Those who were involved in this sad tasking performed the recovery in the most dignified way possible with the base veterinarian on site to ensure all protocols were followed,’ the station posted on Facebook. ‘The animals will be cremated through a local company. Every possible avenue to rescue these animals was pursued following the incident.'”2

While the Boeing 737 is not completely submerged in the St. Johns River, the bottom portion, where the pets were is under water. (But just how deep is that water? And why weren’t divers used?)

“Capt. Michael Connor, commanding officer for the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, said the status of the pets became the ‘second priority’ for initial responders after it was determined all passengers were safe.

He said they looked in the cargo bay and did not hear any animal noises or see any crates — a suggestion they were under water.

‘So at that point, as well as for their own safety and not knowing if the aircraft could potentially sink and risk their lives, they backed out,’ he said at a Saturday news conference.

He said he later in the night had first responders do a second assessment in search of pets, but again they did not see any pet carriers above the water.”2

We are so thankful that everyone got out safety and our hearts go out to the families who lost pets.


  1. NBC News
  2. USA Today