A Delta jetliner skidded off a LaGuardia Airport runway Thursday while landing during a snowstorm, plowing through a berm and stopping just short of plunging into Flushing Bay.
Some passengers muttered "Oh my God" as the twin-engine plane broke through a chain-link perimeter fence and slid to a stop, its nose hanging over the icy water.
"Everybody be calm," the pilot said immediately afterward as he walked through the cabin, passengers said.
Daniel Wildstein, a passenger on the flight from Atlanta, said the plane careened off the runway for roughly 500 yards, but he praised the pilots for averting tragedy.
"They did a wonderful job," said Wildstein, 51, of Marietta, Georgia. "Anything short of going into the water is a wonderful job."
There were no life-threatening injuries among the 127 passengers and five crew members. Twenty-eight people were injured, with five taken to hospitals. Two of those passengers were in serious but stable condition Thursday night, according to the FDNY.
Delta Air Lines Flight 1086, an MD-88 aircraft, took off from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport shortly after 9 a.m. and landed on LaGuardia's Runway 13 at 11:10 a.m., officials said.
The runway had been plowed just minutes before the Delta landing, and two other pilots reported "good braking actions," said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, the airport operator.
Runway 13 is 7,000 feet long and the plane began to veer to the left after about 4,500 feet, Foye said.
"I think the pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft down," he said. "Obviously, the pilot's and the co-pilot's good efforts were reflected in the fact that there were only minor injuries."
The berm that prevented the plane from sliding into the water was put at the edge of the runway to keep Flushing and Bowery bays from flooding the airport during tidal surges.
"Tower, you have an aircraft off the runway," a pilot told an air traffic controller, according to LiveACT.net. "He's leaking fuel on the left side of his aircraft -- heavily."
"You said 'leaking fuel'?" the controller asked.
"His wing is ruptured."
Seconds later, pilots in the air were ordered to "go around" as firefighters raced to the aircraft.
Passengers exited the plane onto a broken wing and crews with ladders helped them to the ground. The passengers walked across the snow-covered tarmac onto buses that took them to a terminal.
The aircraft was leaking a gallon of fuel a minute after the crash, but the leak was stopped and there was no fire, Foye said.
The FDNY said 100 firefighters from 25 units were dispatched to the scene.
Delta officials declined to comment on the cause of the accident, which is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
"The safety of our passengers and our crew is Delta's No. 1 priority," said Gail Grimmett, the airline's senior vice president for New York.
Delta said the MD-88 involved in the incident had a major maintenance overhaul in December 2010 and the plane had a routine service check on Tuesday. Delta took delivery of the aircraft in 1987.
Twenty minutes before the crash, the National Weather Service said it was foggy at the airport, with visibility about a quarter-mile. Snow was falling and the temperature was 26 degrees, with the wind blowing north at 9 mph.
An NTSB investigator, who was already in New York, took photographs at the scene and was to bring the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders to the agency's Washington, D.C., offices, NTSB spokesman Terry Williams said.
One of the many factors investigators want to check is the airport's snowplowing and tarmac de-icing operations, Williams said.
He emphasized that the probe has just begun, saying: "We don't want to say at this time that weather is a factor."
LaGuardia shut down after the accident, causing numerous flight delays and cancellations. The airport reopened at 2 p.m.
Travis Comstock, 36, of Chicago, in New York City on a sales trip, said his flight back home was canceled and he was scrambling to come up with alternate travel plans.
"Nothing I can do but relax," he said. "Overall, everyone I've met has been in good spirits."
With John Valenti, Ted Phillips and Ellen Yan