Nightly News   |  July 23, 2013

NTSB launches investigation into Southwest accident

The Southwest plane that skidded down the runway at LaGuardia Monday caused significant damage to the aircraft but only 10 passengers walked away with minor injuries. NBC’s Katy Tur reports.

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>>> we know a lot more about an incident that had just happened when we came on the air last night. a rough landing for a southwest airlines flight at new york's laguardia airport without front landing gear . there were injuries, there was controversy, the feds announced they launched a full on investigation. nbc's katy tur is at laguardia for us tonight. katie, good evening.

>> the ntsb is just beginning their investigation. while the cause is still unclear, they will be looking at why the southwest flight's landing gear failed. whether or not it was a mechanical issue or some other reason. late tonight, they tell us, the plane slid 2100 feet before coming to a full stop off the side of the runway.

>> number two prepare to land.

>> the 737 approached runway four with no indication anything was wrong. but moments later, passengers felt the jolt as the plane's nose slammed to the ground, flames shooting from the fuselage. brian foster captured it on camera from his window seat .

>> it knocked the camera out of my hand we flipped so hard. you can see me looking around. i'm like, what in the world has happened.

>> reporter: flight attendants urged passengers to stay in their seats.

>> i don't think we're going anywhere because the engine is on the ground.

>> reporter: air traffic controllers urgently sent help. flight 345's emergency doors still shut. the cabin quickly filled with smoke, minutes passed before all 150 on board were evacuated.

>> the smoke started filling the cabin, that was the scariest part, everything's thinking, you see smoke, there's a fire.

>> reporter: passengers on a nearby plane saw the whole thing unfold.

>> it was a fireball going down the runway. it was unbelievable.

>> reporter: the plane's so called black boxes have arrived in washington. investigators want to know when things went wrong, before or during landing. the plane a boeing 737 delivered to southwest in 1999 is not considered old by industry standards. there were only minor injuries. the 737's nose gear collapsed in on itself into the fuselage, piercing the nose of the plane and damaging the area that houses the avionics. they will be interviewing the flight crew and checking the black boxes to determine what went wrong.

>> katy, thanks.