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Sunday 11 December 2016

BA passengers flee plane fire on Las Vegas runway

Published 09/09/2015 | 06:09

Firefighters stand by a plane that caught fire at McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas (AP)
Firefighters stand by a plane that caught fire at McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas (AP)
The plane was heading for Gatwick

British Airways passengers had to escape on emergency slides after an engine fire broke out on a London-bound jet as it prepared to take off from Las Vegas.

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Billowing black smoke and orange flames could be seen pouring from under the plane's wings at McCarran International Airport in Nevada, sending passengers fleeing from the aircraft and across the tarmac before about 50 firefighters brought the blaze under control.

All 159 passengers and 13 crew members aboard British Airways Flight 2276 were able to get off the plane, McCarran International Airport spokesman Chris Jones said.

Fire officials said 14 people were taken to Sunrise Hospital for minor injuries, mostly as a result of sliding down the inflatable chutes.

The Federal Aviation Administration delayed flights to Las Vegas from some airports for more than two hours after the fire to slow the flow of planes while the disabled Boeing 777 made two of the airport's four runways inaccessible.

One of the runways reopened two and a half hours after the fire.

Passenger Reggie Bugmuncher, of Philadelphia said she was charging her phone and waiting at a gate for her flight when she heard people calling out in alarm.

She looked out the window and could see "bursts of flames coming out of the middle of the plane".

"Everyone ran to the windows and people were standing on their chairs, looking out, holding their breath with their hands over their mouths," Ms Bugmuncher said.

The plane's emergency slides were deployed a few moments later and passengers quickly got off the plane. She said it was a "bit more orderly" than she would have expected, given the dramatic nature of the fire and smoke.

Firefighters stationed at the airport reached the plane two minutes after getting reports of flames, and within another three minutes, everyone inside the plane had escaped.

After firefighters extinguished the flames, emergency vehicles could be seen surrounding the aircraft, which was left sooty and grey from the smoke and fire retardant used to douse the flames.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the left engine of the twin-engine plane caught fire. The National Transportation Safety Board is collecting information about the incident, said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the agency in Washington.

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said the cause of the fire was not clear yet, but the fire did not appear to have breached the cabin.

The Boeing 777-200, popular with airlines for its fuel efficiency for long-haul flights, was bound for Gatwick Airport, near London.

In its 21-year history, the 777-200 has been involved in two fatal crashes: one in July 2013 that killed three passengers when an Asiana Airlines flight landed short of San Francisco International Airport's runway, and the Malaysia Airlines flight which disappeared last year.

British Airways spokeswoman Caroline Titmuss would not answer questions about Tuesday's fire in an email exchange, but said: "Safety is always our priority."

Ms Titmuss said in an email that the airline was "looking after customers", and pledged to release more information later.

The Las Vegas airport is the ninth-busiest in the US, and had nearly 43 million passengers last year.

Press Association

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