Tuesday 12 December 2017

Quick-thinking Irish pilot was instrumental in saving 172 passengers on board BA plane which caught fire

The BA plane which caught fire in Vegas.
The BA plane which caught fire in Vegas.

Alan O'Keeffe

A quick-thinking Irish pilot was instrumental in saving 172 passengers on board the British Airways jet which caught fire on a Las Vegas runway yesterday.

All passengers on board flight BA2276 were saved by the skill of veteran pilot Chris Henkey and his Irish co-pilot Ian Callaghan yesterday when flames began to pour out of the aircraft's left engine.

Mr Callaghan (27) from Bellewstown, Co Meath, calmly communicated to the control tower as the Boeing 777-200 catches fire.

Ian, a former pupil of Gormanston College in Meath, aborted take-off with his colleague and all passengers were saved.

A cousin of Ian spoke today of the family’s relief that a disaster was averted by the pilots’ actions.

“Ian’s training would have kicked in and his coolness and calmness would have been expected,” said Tom Callaghan, first cousin of Ian’s father Paddy.

Damage is visible on the British Airways Boeing 777-200 at McCarran International Airport (AP)
Damage is visible on the British Airways Boeing 777-200 at McCarran International Airport (AP)
British Airways plane catches fire on runway at Las Vegas airport
A British Airways plane can be seen in flame at LAS airport Las Vegas Photo: Twitter @banjo

“Ian was head boy at Gormanstown College and he always showed leadership and caring for others. I’m delighted obviously for the whole family that we are talking today about a positive outcome,”  he told The Herald.

Ian was on a Meath GAA juvenile squad and rejoined Duleek Bellewstown GAA Club this year, said Mr Callaghan, who is chairman of the club.

A family friend told the Irish Daily Mirror that the family were relieved to know Ian was safe following  the incident.

“[His father] was concerned at first but knows what his son did and he’s very proud disaster was averted.”

Terrified passengers used emergency slides to escape from the stricken aircraft. As they ran to the safety of the terminal they could see flames pouring out of the aircraft's left engine and smoke billowing into the sky.

The aircraft had been taxiing along the runway at McCarran Airport when the engine burst into flames.

Meanwhile, Wayne from Drogheda in Co Louth, and Grace, from Sanmullen in Co Meath, were thankful to have escaped with their lives.

“I can’t believe we’re still alive. I never thought anything like this could happen to us, freaked isn’t the word.”

“We’re so lucky and still have to fly home tomorrow. Someone is definitely looking over us.”

“We’ve small burns on our backs from jumping down the emergency slide.”

Another passenger said the Boeing 777 came to a juddering halt and the pilot told those on board that the plane had suffered a catastrophic engine failure.

Miraculously, everybody was evacuated safely. However, 14 people - including passengers and crew members - were taken to hospital.

Seven people were being treated for minor injuries last night.

Some passengers were criticised for taking their hand luggage with them as they left the burning plane.

British Airways described the cause of the fire as being due to a "technical issue."

Jacob Steinberg, a 'Guardian' journalist who was on the jet, said he was asleep as the plane was making its way along the runway before stopping abruptly.

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