Miami Air International says it is offering a "goodwill gesture" to the 137 passengers involved in a crash at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Friday night: a $2,500 payment, which the airline says will not affect anybody's right to sue. "We understand and appreciate the difficult experience," airline president and CEO Kurt Kamrad said in a letter to passengers, per the Florida Times-Union. There were no deaths or serious injuries reported after the Boeing 737 from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba slid off the end of the runway after landing during a thunderstorm, though 21 passengers were hospitalized with minor injuries and at least three pets died in the hold.
Passengers left their belongings behind as they evacuated the plane via the wings. Aviation law specialist Barry Newman says passengers intending to sue should consult an attorney before accepting the payment. "I do think that’s a good thing and I’m glad they’re doing it," he says of the payment. "But there will be consequences later for any injuries. Those claims will be brought." Investigators say the left hand thrust reverser, a landing feature, was "inoperative" at the time of the crash, the BBC reports. They say they are also looking into a decision to change runways. The plane is still in the St. John's River and authorities say they need to remove 1,000 gallons of fuel before they can retrieve the cockpit voice recorder from a submerged part of the aircraft. (Read more plane crash stories.)