FedEx cargo plane crashes at Tallahassee airport; three-member crew escapes serious injury

Friday, July 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ A FedEx Boeing 727 cargo jet crashed and burned short of the runway Friday at Tallahassee Regional Airport. The crash jeopardized the plans of several candidates rushing to file qualifying papers for state elections by a noon deadline.

The three-member crew on the three-engine jet, FedEx Flight 1478 from Memphis, Tenn., escaped serious injury, officials said. The jet landed a half mile short of the runway at 5:43 a.m., said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known. FedEx spokesman Jess Bunn said the National Transportation Safety Board and a FedEx team were investigating.

Friday was the last day to qualify for state elections, meaning candidates from around the state had to file paperwork in Tallahassee by noon.

State elections director Clay Roberts said he had spoken to seven candidates, primarily running in legislative races, who said FedEx told them their paperwork was likely on the plane. Roberts said he has no legal authority to change the noon deadline for them.

Several other candidates who had meant to fly to the airport Friday morning chartered planes at the last minute after their flights were canceled, arriving at the Division of Elections just in time to file, Roberts said.

The crash closed the city-owned airport for about 4 1/2 hours, reopening at 10:35 a.m. It wasn't immediately clear how many passengers were affected, although about 15 flights had been scheduled to depart and arrive Friday morning.

Brooke Wilson, spokeswoman at Tallahassee Memorial Health Care hospital, said the three crew members were in fair condition. They were being checked for broken bones; they did not suffer burns, she said.

A mass of metal could be seen on the runway about a half-mile from the terminal Friday morning. Television footage showed orange flames burning in the center of the wreckage at dawn.

David Pollard, the airport's operations superintendent, said the plane was under the control of air traffic controllers in Jacksonville at the time of the crash. The Tallahassee control tower does not begin normal operations until 6 a.m., he said.

Pollard said there was fog in the area at the time of the crash but he had no indication that the weather played a factor.