The right-side engine of an American Airlines Boeing 767 failed Friday during an attempted takeoff, sending debris as far as a half mile and passengers hurriedly down emergency slides onto a runway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
The blaze broke out on American Airlines Flight 383 – with 161 passengers and nine crew on board — as the plane was on the runway at one of the nation’s busiest airports.
Airport fire Chief Timothy Sampey said crews responded to a report of a No. 2 engine on fire. The plane, which had stopped well before the end of the runway, had about 43,000 pounds of fuel.
About 20 people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries that occurred during the evacuation down the emergency slides, District Chief Juan Hernandez said. There were people with minor bruising or injured ankles, he said. None of the injuries were caused by the fire.
“We are taking care of our customers and crew and are re-accommodating our passengers on another flight to Miami this evening,” American Airlines said in a statement.
Passenger Sarah Ahmed told WLS-TV the plane was speeding down the runway when she heard an explosion and saw flames and black smoke.
American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott said Flight 383 was bound for Miami when it aborted takeoff due to an engine-related issue.
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Video from Tarmac at O'Hare in Chicago. Black smoke and bright flames. pic.twitter.com/sCgiHvdaQu
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The rare, but extremely serious, engine failure sent debris from the engine spewing across the south side of the expansive airfield. Part of the engine’s fan disc were found a half mile away on a building used by UPS, two sources said.
A passenger who was sitting in the middle of row 31 said he heard a loud clunk, then saw a large ball of flame that he assumed came from the engine area. Gary Schiavone of DeMotte, Indiana, said the captain was able to stop the aircraft quickly, and then it was “coordinated chaos.”
There wasn’t much yelling or screaming, he told reporters, except passengers who shouted at others who were trying to grab their bags from the overhead bins. Schiavone said about 30 seconds into the evacuation, smoke started to pour into the cabin. The difficulty in breathing was the scariest part, he said.
Asked whether he was afraid he was going to die, Schiavone said, “Of course. I’m thinking the plane is going to blow up.”
Schiavone complimented the crew for getting everyone out in what he estimated was about a minute.
Video tweeted by a witness on the ground showed an airliner with a large tower of smoke rising from the right side and flames billowing beneath the fuselage. The video showed passengers coming down two of the emergency slides on the 767’s left side. A dog also evacuated, officials said.
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