At least 13 people are injured, and all 172 people on board were evacuated, after a British Airways plane, bound for London’s Gatwick Airport, caught fire at Las Vegas airport.
A British Airways plane bound for London has caught fire at an airport, in Las Vegas, Nevada, forcing the evacuation of 172 people on board on emergency slides. Airport officials said at least 13 people were taken to hospital with minor injuries.
US Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the left engine of the Boeing 777-200 caught fire before take-off. The plane was seen engulfed in flames and smoke. The fire was later put out by the airport ARFF team.
In a distress call the plane’s captain asked for the airport’s emergency services: “Speedbird, Mayday, Mayday. Speedbird 2276 request fire services.”
“Speedbird 2276 heavy, we are evacuating on the runway. We have a fire, repeat, we are evacuating,” he adds.
The pilot later told passengers that the accident was the result of a “catastrophic failure of the engine”, reports the Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg, who was on board the plane.
“We looked out the window and for the first time saw smoke near the wing. We could smell it. It was like burning rubber – bitter and deeply unpleasant – and it was time to panic,” Steinberg writes.
Flight 2276 was bound for London’s Gatwick airport. There were 159 passengers and 13 crew members on board.
A spokesman for Rolls Royce told Reuters news agency the engine was not made by the company, British Airways uses engines made by either Rolls Royce or General Electric, the agency adds.
The airport was quick to report on the outbreak of the fire, at 4:13 pm (23:13 GMT), via its Twitter account, before commending the “excellent work” of its ARFF team, which had evacuated all passengers, and extinguished the fire, within four minutes.
Airport officials said at least 13 people were taken to the city’s Sunrise hospital, most of them with injuries sustained while sliding down inflatable chutes during the evacuation.
Some of those on board said there was smoke in the cabin as one exit was opened and immediately declared unsafe.
Eyewitness Reggie Bugmuncher said she was waiting at a gate for her flight when she heard people saying: “Oh, my God.”
She said looked out the window and could see “bursts of flames coming out of the middle of the plane”, the Associated Press news agency reports.
An investigation into the blaze is now under way. Officials later said one runway was shut down, but three others continued to operate. McCarran is a major airport in the US, handling more than 40 million passengers last year.