Thirteen people were hospitalized after a British Airways plane caught fire Tuesday afternoon at McCarran International Airport.
Passengers used emergency slides to leave the plane, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The Boeing 777 was scheduled to depart at 4:05 p.m. After taxiing a few minutes on the runway as it prepared for takeoff on runway 7, the crew reported a fire at 4:13 p.m., said Rosemary Vassiliadis, McCarran’s director of aviation. The Clark County Fire Department arrived at 4:14 p.m. and the fire was extinguished at 4:18 p.m, she said.
Flight crews aborted takeoff after a fire started in the left engine, Gregor said.
About 159 passengers and 13 crew members were evacuated from the plane. Thirteen people reported minor injuries and were sent to area hospitals.
Karen Bravo, 60, of Las Vegas, was on the British Airways flight. She told the Las Vegas Review-Journal everything happened “very fast” but that the flight crew handled the situation professionally.
Bravo was sitting toward the front of the plane as it was “going down the runway and suddenly we heard a ‘boom’ and then we heard another ‘boom.'”
The plane stopped, she said, and someone said it was on fire. The pilot then ordered the doors opened, and she and the other passengers hopped onto the slides that delivered them to safety.
“Everybody did their job,” Bravo said, also complimenting first responders and airport staff. “This could be a training video.”
Bravo said she’s not canceling her flight to London and will continue flying British Airways.
Some injured passengers were taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, according to Clark County Fire Department Chief Jon Klassen. The number of those hurt increased throughout the afternoon. Initially, reports from the airport said no one was hurt. Later, that number grew to two. By the evening, it was 13.
“A number of people have been collected in a triage area and are awaiting medical assessment by Clark County Fire Department paramedics,” Klassen said shortly after 6 p.m.
One of McCarran’s runways was put out of service, but reopened about 8:15 p.m.
Many inbound flights to McCarran were delayed, although an exact number was not available Tuesday night. The flight schedule was expected to normalize later Tuesday night. The airport also advised travelers to check flight statuses at other airports.
A reporter for British newspaper The Guardian was on the flight and tweeted his observations. Jacob Steinberg said paramedics hauled off a young woman who looked like she would be OK. Some passengers had cuts and bruises from sliding out of the plane, Steinberg tweeted. “They’ve been bandaged up.”
The pilot told passengers there was catastrophic engine failure, Steinberg said.
The passengers whose travel was disrupted were transported to local hotels by the airline.
“Safety is always our priority,” a British Airways spokeswoman said in an email. “We are looking after customers after a technical issue with the aircraft.”
The Boeing 777-200 was scheduled for takeoff about 3:30 p.m., with the nearly 10-hour flight, number 2276, bound for Gatwick Airport in London.
The plane was towed to a parking location in the airfield. The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA will investigate the fire.
Review-Journal reporter Wesley Juhl contributed to this story.
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