September 28, 2017 / 4:57 PM / 4 months ago

Puerto Rico aid plane tilted by heavy load at Florida airport

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) - A relief mission to Puerto Rico run by the animal welfare charity Wings of Rescue was canceled on Thursday when the plane tilted backward at Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport after taking on a heavy load of bottled water.

Volunteers loading the aircraft before dawn had lifted a 2,000-pound (907 kg) pallet of water into the back of the plane, causing it to tip backward and scrape its tail on the asphalt.

As the plane remained diagonal, pointing skyward, Wings of Rescue President Ric Browde sat dejectedly on its dangling entry stairway and said the flight was canceled.

“We’ve taken water before but we’ve never done a whole pallet like that,” said Browde, 63. “Someone made a mistake.”

Nonprofit Wings of Rescue President Ric Browde sits dejectedly on the entry stairway on the plane that has been flying daily to Puerto Rico to drop off supplies and evacuate animals. The plane is pictured tipping backward, scraping its tail on the asphalt due to a 2,000-pound pallet of water being placed into the back end of the plane which caused the flight to be cancelled at Fort Lauderdale's Executive Airport, in Florida, U.S., September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Nicholas Brown

The 66-foot (20 meter) twin-engine plane, which is designed to carry more than 2,600 pounds (1,179 kg), may need repairs, Browde said. It was unclear when it would return to service.

Wings of Rescue, which evacuates pets from high-risk areas including natural disaster zones, this week began flying daily from Florida to Puerto Rico with supplies including batteries, diapers and water. It then evacuates animals on return flights to the U.S. mainland, it said on its Facebook page.

Slideshow (3 Images)

Airport officials were not immediately available for comment.

Wings of Rescue, established in 2012, says it has flown more than 26,000 pets to safety. It evacuated animals from two other major hurricanes in the past several weeks, Harvey, which caused record flooding in Texas, and Irma, which slammed Florida.

The group had planned to bring animals from Puerto Rico to Manassas, Virginia, it said on Facebook.

Reporting by Nick Brown; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Trott

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