Captain Michael Connor, the commanding officer of NAS Jacksonville, said during a news conference that passengers were a mix of civilian and military personnel. Some were staying in the area, while others were set to fly on to other parts of the country.
While the crash certainly wasn’t ideal, Connor acknowledged that it could have been much worse.
“I think it is a miracle,” Connor said. “We could be talking about a different story this evening.”
Officials did not immediately say what caused the plane to leave the runway. Boeing said in a tweet Friday night that it was investigating: “We are aware of an incident in Jacksonville, Fla., and are gathering information.”
It wasn’t known how long it would take to remove the plane from the river, but Connor said the landing gear appeared to be resting on the river bed, making it unlikely for the aircraft to float away.
He said crews began working to contain any jet fuel leaks almost immediately after securing the passengers’ safety.
Liz Torres told the Florida Times-Union that she heard what sounded like a gunshot Friday night from her home in Orange Park, about 8 kilometres south of NAS Jacksonville. She then drove down to a Target parking lot where police and firefighters were staging to find out more.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
The mayor of Jacksonville, Lenny Curry, said on Twitter that everyone on board the flight was “alive and accounted for”.
Curry said in a separate tweet that US President Donald Trump had called him to offer help.
“The plane was not submerged. Every person is alive and accounted for,” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter.
The sheriff’s tweet was accompanied by two photographs showing the plane bearing the logo of Miami Air International resting in shallow water and fully intact with minimal damage.
The plane appeared to be missing its nose.
Navy security and emergency response personnel were on the scene and monitoring the situation, the Navy said. Family members who were expecting the arrival of passengers were instructed to stand by.
Miami Air International is a charter airline operating a fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Representatives for the airline could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday evening.
The Federal Aviation Administration was referring media inquiries to NAS Jacksonville.
Connor said National Transportation Safety Board investigators were already on their way.
with Reuters and AP
Ben Grubb is a Desk Editor/Locum Homepage Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald.