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WestJet flight from Toronto slides off runway at Halifax airport

Sunday, January 5th 2020, 6:24 pm - Everyone has safely left the plane as WestJet and Transportation Safety Board investigate

People on a packed WestJet plane travelling from Toronto were unharmed when the Boeing 737-800 slid off the runway after landing at Halifax Stanfield International Airport Sunday amid snowy conditions.

WestJet said shortly after 3 p.m. that all passengers and crew members have left the plane safely.

cbc plane Scott Robertson was driving by the Halifax airport when he snapped this shot of WestJet Flight 248 early Sunday afternoon. (Scott Robertson)

Seven crew members and 172 passengers were on board WestJet 248. The airline said in a statement that it is still investigating what happened but that it appeared the plane landed normally before leaving the runway shortly after 12 p.m.

"We'll obviously look into what happened in the incident of this particular aircraft, and take any learnings that we can into account," said Tiffany Chase, spokesperson for Halifax International Airport Authority.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released a statement saying it has sent an investigative team to Halifax to gather information and assess the situation.

WestJet also said it's working with the airport authority to ensure people are able to access their luggage as soon as possible.

Passenger Eric Wynne said the flight crew kept people calm and that no one appeared to be hurt after the landing.

"The pilots did an awesome job," Wynne said.

He said it appeared the plane continued off the end of the runway onto an unpaved area.

"When we approached the runway, there was a bit of rocking side to side due to wind ... but [I] didn't expect to run off the end of the runway," he said.

Wynne said firefighters were outside assessing the damage and passengers were waiting for buses to take them to the terminal.

"We're fine, we're safe," he said.

Passenger Stephen Crouchman said, aside from some rocking during the landing, everything seemed calm.

"I really didn't know anything was wrong until I looked out the window and there was grass on both sides of the plane," he said.

Crouchman said he was on the plane for about 45 minutes before being able to disembark and take the bus to the terminal.

"I was expecting to be there for quite a while, but they were pretty efficient at coming out to get us," he said.

In its statement, WestJet apologized to its guests and said it would be working with them to provide water as well as help with meals, hotels and accommodations, if needed.

POOR WEATHER IN HALIFAX AREA

The airline cancelled a flight to and from St. John's as well as a Halifax-Toronto flight as a result of the incident. The airline has not said if there was any damage to the aircraft.

It snowed in the Halifax region throughout Sunday with temperatures hovering slightly below freezing. Environment Canada has issued special weather statements and winter storm warnings across the province.

There are several delayed and some cancelled departures and arrivals involving other airlines at the Halifax airport. It's unclear if they're connected to the WestJet flight or the poor weather.

Chase said the best way for anyone travelling to find out if their flights have been delayed or cancelled is to contact the airline directly.

The plane is still at the end of runway, which will be closed in both directions until HIAA and WestJet can determine when it can be moved.

With files from Robyn Simon.

This article was originally published by CBC News and written by Elizabeth McMillan and Anjuli Patil.

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