Coppin plane overshoots D.C. runway One player shaken up after accident at National Airport

Stopped 200 feet short of river

Team was returning from S.C. State game

February 21, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

A freshman forward on the Coppin State basketball team was slightly injured yesterday after a Continental Airlines plane overshot a runway at Washington's National Airport and stopped 200 feet short of the Potomac River.

Rafi Reavis, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Dade City, Fla., was removed from National Airport on a stretcher and taken to National Hospital Medical Center in Arlington, Va. Reavis complained of chest pains after the incident on a Boeing 737 jet carrying 74 passengers and a crew of five that was traveling from Tampa, Fla., via Greensboro, N.C. A hospital spokeswoman said Reavis likely suffered a stress reaction and was released in good condition.

The plane overshot the runway by 150 feet and stopped 200 feet short of the river after its tires got stuck in the mud, according to Tom Olson, National's operations officer. The passengers debarked by walking down stairs at the rear of the plane, and were taken by buses to the main terminal. No other injuries were reported in the incident, which shut down the airport for 20 minutes and closed Runway 36, National's longest.

The Coppin team was returning after a game Monday night against South Carolina State.

"It was scary," said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell. "We just kept dropping and dropping real fast and I was just saying, 'Stop this baby.' Then we look out the side and see the water right next to us. I just kept on thinking of LaGuardia Airport, of that plane rolling into the water."

Mitchell was referring to a March 22, 1992, crash of a USAir plane into Flushing Bay that left 27 dead. That accident, which occurred during takeoff during a snowstorm, was attributed to ice on the wings of the Dutch-made Fokker 28 aircraft.

Although investigators looking into yesterday's accident at National Airport had not ruled on a cause last night, a light mist had blanketed the area much of the day. Before the incident, there had been poor visibility because of fog, but officials said visibility was better at the time the 737 overshot the runway at 3:12 p.m.

Mitchell said he felt a problem even before the plane touched down.

"You know how you gradually come down," Mitchell said. "We just kept dropping. You could hear a loud bang when the tire blew. You never figure something like this can happen to you. We feel really blessed."

Coppin forward Kareem Lewis, a sophomore forward from Brooklyn, N.Y., said there was no panic on the plane.

"We came down real hard, then the tire went boom and every body just looked at each other," Lewis said. "After we stopped, the pilot came out and looked real bad. He was stuttering when he told us the situation and how to leave."

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