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Miami Air International’s ‘goodwill gesture’ to crash survivors: $2,500 and an apology

By Kristin Lam, USA TODAY

The operator of the airliner that skidded off the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and into a Florida river last week has offered $2,500 to each passenger as a “goodwill gesture.”

In an open letter dated Monday, Miami Air International’s CEO apologized to the survivors aboard the Boeing 737-800 that rolled off the end of a runway after landing at the military base.

Kurt Kamrad said accepting the payment will not affect their rights, adding passenger safety and satisfaction are the airline’s priorities.

Rescuers in boats saved all 143 people aboard. One dog and two cats belonging to a military family died in the military-chartered jet that had arrived from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Naval Air Station Jacksonville confirmed in a post Sunday.

Passengers have yet to receive their checked baggage. Kamrad wrote luggage is still in the aircraft’s cargo hold. Once the National Transportation Safety Board gives approval, he said the airline will retrieve, catalog and clean the baggage. Then an agent will arrange the return of passengers’ bags.

“We understand and appreciate the difficult experience you endured,” Kamrad wrote.

The National Safety Board retrieved the flight data recorder Saturday, investigator Dan Boggs said. The voice recorder was in a submerged portion of the plane and was not immediately retrieved, authorities said Sunday.

Hours before the crash, the airline told passengers the aircraft might not be able to fly because of an air conditioning problem, passenger Darwing Silva told the Tampa Bay Times.

More than 20 people were treated for minor injuries, but only one was hospitalized – a 3-month-old baby, and only as a precaution, authorities said.

“I think it is a miracle,” base commanding officer Capt. Michael Connor said. “We could be talking about a different story.”

A final report investigating the crash could take more than a year to complete. Boeing issued a statement saying it was providing technical assistance to the investigation.

Contributing: The Associated Press