Pets on board plane that skid off runway, into Jacksonville river presumed dead

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Pets on board the military-chartered plane that skid off the runway and into a Jacksonville, Florida river Friday night are presumed dead.

According to USA Today, when the plane departed Guantanamo Bay, Cuba at least four pets were checked in the luggage department located in the bottom of the plane.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy in Jacksonville told the news outlet Saturday that those pets are still on the aircraft and presumed dead.

The 737 is not completely submerged in water, however the area where the pets were positioned is reportedly under water.

"Initial responders did look inside the cargo bay. They did not see anything. They did not hear any animal noises. They could not see any crates. 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," Captain Michael Connor, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Commanding Officer, said in video obtained by CNN.

Connor also told USA Today that the status of the pets became "second priority" after all passengers were deemed safe.

The pets on the plane included cats and dogs.  The flight's manifest recorded four pets on board, but officials say there's a chance more could have been boarded.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to those pet owners during this terrible incident," NAS Jacksonville said on Facebook.

Meanwhile, all 143 people aboard the plane survived, with 21 adults transported to local hospitals in good condition.

The National Transportation Security Board is asking that anyone aboard the flight who has video please to send it to witness@ntsb.gov.

Continuing coverage, here.

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