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Boeing 737 could soon be removed from St. Johns River

Barges in place Tuesday to remove Miami Air flight that skidded into water

Barges and cranes are being used to remove the Boeing 737 that skidded off the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville into the St. Johns River.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Boeing 737 that slid off the runway at Naval Air Station Jacksonville could be removed from the St. Johns River as early as Tuesday.

Before workers could start the process of removing the plane, the fuel had to be removed, an effort that was complicated by stormy weather and the fact that the plane remained partially in the water, officials said.

But all the fuel was taken out by Monday night, and barges were moved into place Tuesday morning.

A Navy spokeswoman said 1,200 gallons of fuel was removed, which would mean about 400 gallons leaked into the river. Crews had set up booms to contain the spill, and it's uncertain how much of the fuel was recovered from the water.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper said Monday that environmental damage appeared to be minimal.

Navy contract partners were preparing the aircraft to be loaded onto a barge by crane.

The process involves divers securing straps around the plane, which could take some time. They have to fully strap it up to be able to lift it onto the barge. If all goes well, the plane could be on the barge by early evening, but the work must be completed in daylight, so it will depend on how far they get before sunset.

Once safely secured on the barge, the plane will be taken to a secure location, NAS Jacksonville said in a news release.

The Navy spokeswoman said the Navy is not paying for the removal of the plane. The cost is being covered by Miami Air's insurance company. She did not say how much it was costing.

The NAS Jacksonville airfield remains closed for all incoming aircraft until salvage operations are completed, officials said.

The Miami Air flight slid off the runway Friday night and into the St. Johns River after arriving from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

All 143 passengers and crewmembers survived, but three pets in the cargo hold died.

National Transportation Safety Board representatives are investigating the cause of the accident.