Two Bridgewater men returning to Nova Scotia from a pyrotechnics job in the Caribbean were passengers on the WestJet flight that slid off a runway January 5 at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport near Enfield.
Among the 172 passengers on board the Boeing 737 from Toronto to Halifax were Andy Wentzell and Arden Weagle, part of a crew heading home from the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day fireworks job in Barbados.
Speaking to LighthouseNOW, Weagle and Wentzell said WestJet Flight 248 took off from Pearson International on time and the two-hour trip was largely uneventful and well-controlled. There was some turbulence on the approach to Halifax but nothing out of the ordinary. The region was getting hit with a significant snowfall.
"The pilot advised it might be a little rough coming in because of the storm," Weagle said.
Even the landing appeared normal for Wentzell and Weagle, who've experienced many flights over the years, including for multiple trips south for pyrotechnics-related work.
With the plane wheels down on the pavement, it was around the time the plane should slow down enough on the runway to be able to taxi to the appropriate gate for passenger departure when it seemed something was amiss.
"It just didn't seem like we were stopping," said Weagle, "and when we did come to a stop I looked out the window - I was in one of the exit rows - and I said 'I see grass.'"
The aircraft came to rest in a grassy area beyond the runway, an estimated four-dozen metres from the pavement.
Wentzell and Weagle, like other passengers, were largely composed.
"I've had a lot rougher landings in nicer weather," Weagle said.
Wentzell agreed, considering he'd been on an aircraft a couple of years prior that had to make an emergency landing because the plane lost hydraulic power. "That was very nerve-wracking," he said of that experience.
No one was injured as a result of the January 5 incident aboard WestJet. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is looking into the incident.
The airline crew members communicated with passengers what was happening and the evacuation process.
"They were calm, cool, and collected," Wentzell said. "They were really professional."
Weagle said the matter was taken seriously, but people weren't excited or upset, Weagle said, except for a couple of passengers who were eager to catch connecting flights that were likely cancelled due to the weather.
"It was jovial on the plane," Wentzell added. "We were actually trying to convince the flight attendants to put the [evacuation] slide down."
That didn't happen, but the passengers were bused 20-at-a-time to the gate from the plane. Weagle said he was only on the jet for about an hour. He, like the others, had to leave his bags behind, but the luggage arrived at his home the next day.