Smoke on a plane: Passengers safely evacuated after engine catches fire

Some 172 passengers and crew were forced to evacuate a British Airways flight via an emergency slide on Tuesday. 

Eric Hays/AP
Smoke billows out from a plane that caught fire at McCarren International Airport, Tuesday, in Las Vegas. An engine on the British Airways plane caught fire before takeoff, forcing passengers to escape on emergency slides.

Flights to Las Vegas were delayed some two hours on Tuesday after a British Airways plane bound for London caught fire on the runway.

Some 172 passengers and crew were aboard the Boeing 777-200 when the plane’s left engine ignited. An onlooker inside the airport recalled seeing "bursts of flames coming out of the middle of the plane," reported the Associated Press.

"Mayday, Mayday, Speedbird 2276 request fire services," one of the pilots is heard saying calmly on an audio clip posted online. "We are evacuating on the runway, we have a fire, I repeat, we are evacuating," reported Reuters.

Crew members acted quickly, opening emergency doors and deploying the emergency slides. As smoke began to enter the cabin, momentary panic ensued, but the crew was able to usher all passengers to safety with no major injuries.

Captain Les Abend said pilots pulled a "fire handle," which deployed fire retardant to the specified area, cut the hydraulics and electrical systems to the engine and shut off the air system in the cabin, CNN reported.

Airport firefighters responded within two minutes and were able to put out the fire safely and quickly. Just five minutes after the first call came in, the airport tweeted that all passengers were off the plane and the fire was out, reported CNN.

The cause of the fire wasn’t clear to Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen, first responder, but he said the fire did not appear to breach the cabin. However, the effects of the smoke and fire retardant left the plane on the runway with charred fuselage.  

The airline and emergency response personnel ensured everyone was well and given accommodation, taking some to a nearby hospital for minor injuries incurred from sliding down the inflatable chutes to escape.

Jacob Steinberg, a passenger and sports reporter for The Guardian, tweeted from the runway that all injuries appeared to be minor.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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