Irishman who escaped Las Vegas plane blaze tells of trauma
Published 22/09/2015 | 07:14
A PASSENGER who escaped the fireball British Airways flight at Las Vegas earlier this month is suffering regular flashbacks.
Steve Bingham, 35, from Hillsborough, Northern Ireland, is one of 40 people from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland to have hired lawyers to investigate the cause of the terrifying blaze.
They were on board the Boeing 777-200 when it caught fire as it prepared to take-off on a 10-hour flight to London Gatwick on September 8 (local time).
Mr Bingham has been on medication for psychological trauma since and injured his arm escaping down chutes as flames soared twice the height of the aircraft.
"The plane accelerated for take-off, then there was a loud bang and jolt followed by an abrupt emergency stop. At that point, I thought the plane was going to tip on its side or crash," he said.
"Many people were screaming, with some then shouting about fire.
"Then I saw thick black smoke from the windows on both sides of the aircraft, but the cabin crew were still telling us to stay seated at this point. Seconds later, the pilot ordered the evacuation."
Mr Bingham described the sense of panic on the runway below the burning jet.
"Once out of the plane, the staff were screaming at us to run away. I started to run and looked back towards the plane to see that it was on fire with flames reaching twice the height of the aircraft. All I could think was that if it reaches the fuel tanks and explodes we will be killed," he said.
"I'm still suffering from the incident and have regular flashbacks.
"You simply never expect something like this to happen. I am continuing to suffer from the effects of what happened but I know we are all incredibly lucky not to have been more seriously injured."
The engine of BA flight 2276 was found to have "multiple breaches" in its casing, US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators said.
Parts of the General Electric GE90-85B engine flew out onto the runway.
The aircraft was travelling between 40 and 100mph ahead of the 10-hour flight to Gatwick when the fire broke out and the captain slammed the brakes on.
BA senior captain Chris Henkey, 63, from Reading, Berkshire, was on his penultimate flight when he aborted take-off, declared the emergency and ordered the evacuation.
The 157 passengers, 10 crew and three pilots, including Mr Henkey, had to evacuate down emergency slides.
Twenty-seven people, including all the crew, were treated for minor injuries which were mostly caused by escaping down the inflatable chutes.
Clive Garner, head of law firm Irwin Mitchell's aviation department which is representing British and Irish passengers, said: "The primary concern must be ensuring that all of those who have suffered injuries are given the specialist support and advice they need.
"Some of the passengers have suffered physical injuries and from previous experience we know that such a terrifying incident can also cause psychological injuries to those involved. Many passengers also inhaled fumes produced by the fire which may have been toxic.
"The psychological impact of a life threatening event like this should not be underestimated."
Examination of flight data and cockpit voice recording equipment is ongoing but Irwin Mitchell is conducting its own investigations into the cause ahead of the final air accident report.
Its lawyers suggested one possibility is that an engine turbine blade detached and damaged fuel and hydraulic pipes sparking a fire.