British Airways plane catches fire on runway at Las Vegas airport
MORE than a dozen people have been hurt after a London-bound British Airways plane caught fire on a runway at a Las Vegas airport.
The left engine of the Boeing 777-200 burst into flames at McCarran International Airport, forcing 159 passengers and 13 crew to evacuate through emergency slides.
The airport said all passengers and crew had made it off the plane safely, while British Airways said the fire was caused by a "technical issue" as the plane was preparing to take-off.
At least 14 people have been treated for minor injuries, according to fire officials who said many were a result of sliding down inflatable escape chutes.
At a press conference, an airport spokeswoman said: "All passengers were evacuated quickly and safely and taken by bus to the terminal.
"We cannot express enough gratitude to the emergency response crews, as well as the British Airways crew.
"As facts become available, information will be provided."
The National Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the incident, the spokeswoman said.
The plane was set to depart for Gatwick when the crew noticed the fire and evacuated all on board.
A British Airways spokesman said: "The safety of our customers and crew is always our priority, and we are looking after those who were on board the BA2276 from Las Vegas to London Gatwick following an incident on Tuesday September 8, 2015.
"The aircraft, a 777-200 experienced a technical issue as it was preparing for take-off from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.
"Our crew evacuated the aircraft safely and the fire was quickly extinguished by the emergency services at the airport.
"A small number of customers and our crew have been taken to hospital as a precaution.
"All customers have been provided with hotel accommodation, and our colleagues are helping them with anything further they require."
Jacob Steinberg, a Guardian sports reporter who was on the flight, said the captain told passengers there had been a "catastrophic" engine failure.
He tweeted: "Just evacuated on a British Airways flight at Las Vegas airport after an engine caught fire. Don't think anyone hurt.
"Was asleep as the plane took off. Came to a crashing halt. Smell of smoke. Initially told to stay seated, then shout of evacuate.
"Could smell and see smoke but was on other side of plane. One person said fire melted a couple of windows.
"They opened the back door and slide went down and smoke started coming in plane, followed by mad dash to front. A lot of panic."
He added: "A few have cuts and bruises from the slide down. They've been bandaged up. One young woman was taken away by paramedics, but looked OK."
Mr Steinberg told Sky News the incident was "terrifying".
"We were kind of in a blur when we were leaving the plane," he said.
"I remember feeling quite blank and it was just 'fight or flight'. It's only when the adrenaline has gone you realise what happened.
"It's certainly a terrifying experience and a lot of people are quite shocked."
The general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, Jim McAuslan, said: "While we await a meticulous investigation to help us understand this fire and prevent it happening again, all pilots will want to recognise the professional way the pilots and crew dealt with this emergency situation.
"Pilots take their personal responsibility for the safety and comfort of passengers extremely seriously and train relentlessly to deal with this kind of rare event."
He added: "A pilot could go through their whole career without dealing with an incident like this but if it happens all the training and time in the simulator pays off."
The Las Vegas to Gatwick route is popular with UK leisure passengers.
A BA spokeswoman would not confirm the number of Britons on the plane.
She said the passengers would not be completing their journey to London together and would be booked on to flights depending on individual preferences.