MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - An American Airlines flight headed to Miami caught fire at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Friday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of 170 passengers and crew members.
American Airlines Flight 383 was departing from Chicago O’Hare to Miami International Airport when, officials said, it blew a tire. The Federal Aviation Administration said some of the debris from the Boeing 767’s tire may have shot up and damaged the engine, causing the fire.
Airline officials said an engine on the right wing caught fire.
The pilot and flight crew aborted takeoff and immediately had all passengers evacuated from the aircraft via emergency chutes.
FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro also told the Associated Press that an engine was damaged and that some people suffered minor injuries.
Crews were able to extinguish the flames.
According to an American Airlines spokeswoman, the flight aborted takeoff due to an “engine-related mechanical issue.” Leslie Scott said the 161 passengers and nine crew members deplaned on the runway and buses were sent to pick up the passengers and bring them back to the terminal.
American Airlines officials later confirmed 21 people, including one flight attendant, sustained minor injuries. Ten of these people were taken to the hospital.
Friday night, a federal official who asked not to be identified told The Associated Press the plane experienced an “uncontained engine failure,” in which engine parts break off and are spewed outside the engine.
Part of the engine flew over half a mile away and landed on a hangar. “Plane just taking off going to Miami was fully loaded. A 767. Roughly 43,000 pounds of fuel,” said Chicago Fire Department Chief Timothy Sampey during a news conference. “They had a heavy volume of fire all the way to the wing.”
A National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson said the board is aware of the incident but hasn’t made a decision on whether to investigate.
One passenger who was on the plane, Ian Jones, spoke to 7News shortly after being evacuated from the plane.
“We were sitting there and obviously were about to take off because it was getting to the point where you couldn’t get out of your seat. And then, all of a sudden, a loud pop and flames and flames and flames,” Jones said, “and then panic and just chaos.”
“When the pop occurred, everybody pretty much just panicked immediately,” Jones said, “There wasn’t much instruction. Everybody pretty much just rushing, trying to find an exit, and once an exit was found it was still chaos. There was literally not much direction from the staff. And I don’t know what’s going or what’s been happening, but this is not the way I’d ideally like to start my weekend.”
Passengers recorded the chaotic scene on their cellphones. The footage shows passengers frantically running from the burning jetliner.
“Twenty seconds later we would have all been dead. Unbelievable,” said one passenger.
“The smoke was the worst thing,” said another passenger. “About halfway through getting out the smoke got a little bit heavy. So you would get a deep breath to get some oxygen and you took in smoke, and that was the scariest thing.”
Video posted by a Twitter user showed flames coming from the plane.
One side of the plane was left scorched. The wing that caught fire was so badly damaged that it collapsed.
Jones said all of his baggage was still on the plane, and no one from the airlines has spoken to him yet.
“I’m really not thrilled with how this situation was handled at all. When they popped the door open for us to evacuate all I saw was white shirts, and I believe the American Airlines uniforms are white shirts,” Jones said, “so I don’t know if some of the crew got off first or just pretty much ran for cover. I don’t know what happened.”
“All I know is that the way that this is being handled is not efficient or anyway helpful at all. I’m literally sitting here in a corner talking to you guys, and nobody has approached me. Nobody has said anything to me,” said Jones. “The only thing I’ve gotten is a bottle of water, and that wasn’t from anybody who works with the airline, that was from somebody who just saw me sitting there and was like, ‘Do you want something to drink?'”
As Jones was speaking to 7News, he said he overheard officials on the loudspeaker telling passengers they were trying to find another flight.
“From what I heard, they were trying to get another flight for us, and I’m not really thrilled about the idea of going with another American Airlines flight, based on how this has happened,” Jones said.
American Airlines brought the passengers to Miami on two separate planes. They arrived at MIA at around the same time, on Saturday, just after 12:30 a.m.