Published 2:15 PM EDT May 4, 2019
All 143 people aboard a military-chartered plane survived after the aircraft skidded off a runway into a river in Jacksonville, Florida, on Friday night, but their pets weren’t as fortunate.
At least four pets were checked in the luggage department located in the bottom of the plane that left Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to northern Florida.
Each is still on the aircraft and presumed dead, Kaylee LaRocque, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy in Jacksonville, confirmed to USA TODAY on Saturday.
Although the Boeing 737 plane is not completely submerged in the St. Johns River, the bottom portion, where the pets were positioned, is under water.
“There’s water in the cargo hold,” LaRocque said. “We are so sad about this situation, that there are animals that unfortunately passed away.”
Authorities have left the plane untouched as the National Transportation Safety Board conducts an investigation of the crash landing, meaning passengers’ possessions, including pets, are still on the plane.
LaRocque said the pets include dogs and cats. The flight’s manifest recorded a total of four pets on board, but she said it’s possible more could have been boarded.
“Unfortunately, they have not been retrieved yet due to safety issues with the aircraft, the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where the crash landing occurred, tweeted early Saturday morning. “Our hearts and prayers go out to those pet owners during this terrible incident.”
The plane skidded off the runway at around 9:40 a.m. Cheryl Bormann, prominent defense attorney who was aboard the plane, described a chaotic landing in which the pilot appeared to lose control of the aircraft before it smashed into the water and screeched to a halt.
LaRocque said that once the plane is removed from the river, authorities will then retrieve the pets and everyone’s luggage.
Authorities haven’t said what caused the plane to overshoot the runway. Naval Air Station Jacksonville is a military airport about eight miles south of downtown.