Michael Rittershaus’ wife texted him from Gretna, right before his Southwest Airlines jet landed.

Stephanie wanted him to drive carefully. She had tried to park in the driveway, and it was too slick.

Rittershaus said he wondered to himself if they had de-iced the runway. Soon, the plane landed, and he realized that it was no ordinary conclusion to the flight.

The plane slid off the runway.

“It wasn’t too scary,” said Rittershaus, who was returning from a business trip in California with a stopover in Las Vegas. “Yep. Apparently it was icy out.”

None of the 150 passengers and six crew members on Flight 1643 from Las Vegas were injured, said Steve McCoy, manager of airport affairs at the Omaha Airport Authority.

The plane landed in Omaha at 2:02 p.m., a short time after freezing drizzle had begun to coat roads, sidewalks and vehicles. The airport was closed for about 2½ hours after the incident, reopening about 4:40 p.m., and a small number of flights were diverted and canceled Friday afternoon.

Benny Salz, 30, a passenger, said that after the plane touched down, it felt like the aircraft moved in an S-shape before straightening out.

“Then all of a sudden it kind of felt like it hit a black ice patch, and then it went sideways,” said Salz, a producer in Los Angeles who was back in Omaha for a visit.

McCoy, the airport affairs manager, said crews had been working on treating Eppley’s runways since the start of the freezing drizzle earlier in the day.

Sarah Smith was traveling Friday with her husband, Andy Lee, and their three small children from Alamo, California, for a niece’s birthday party. Like many passengers, she said Friday’s ordeal was mostly calm.

“You could just tell you were sliding a little bit, and then a little bumpy near the end,” she said.

Passengers said they stayed on the plane for about an hour after it slid off the end of Runway 14R. Stairs were eventually brought to the aircraft, and passengers were taken by bus back to the terminal, where they were briefly sequestered in a conference room.

Smith said her children didn’t seem to notice that anything was amiss.

“I don’t think they even realized what happened,” she said.

Philip Baris, 57, came to town from Los Angeles for a wedding. He had a window seat and said he knew that the landing didn’t go right when he saw ice.

“We came to somewhat of an uneven stop,” he said. Baris said the plane wasn’t going very fast when the slide occurred. “Everybody was cool. Crew was cool.”

Rittershaus, of Gretna, texted his wife as soon as he realized what had happened. “We just slid off the runway. No emergency,” he informed her.

Her response: “Call me when you can.”

The passengers were offered lunch, but Rittershaus declined. He only had carry-on luggage and, after a brief discussion with airline employees and a bit of paperwork, he headed home.

He wanted to do something about that slick driveway.

World-Herald staff writer Bob Glissmann contributed to this report.

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Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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