Chicago-bound flight makes emergency landing

July 19, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The American Eagle flight was detoured because of weather, followed by a report of smoke in the cabin.

Fifty-three passengers and four crew members took off from Colorado and were headed to Chicago when they had to land in Peoria.

For several minutes, as the cabin filled with smoke, passengers say they had no idea what was going on. And, once the plane was on the ground, things only got more interesting.

"I'm definitely going to re-evaluate my life insurance and will," said passenger Chris Pyle. "No joke."

The Pyles were on American Eagle Flight 3773 Wednesday night from Denver to O'Hare when their plane was diverted to Peoria because of weather.

The trouble began on approach, moments after the landing gear was lowered.

"Smoke started coming down from the ceiling, and then we got freaked out," Chris Pyle said.

"It was just an intense burning of my eyes, my throat," said Melinda Pyle.

The crew radioed the tower.

Co-Pilot: "Tower, Flight 3773 declaring an emergency. We've got smoke in the cabin."

Tower: "Flight 3773, roger."

Minutes later, the aircraft landed safely.

Passengers scrambled to exit the plane, some using stairs, but the Pyles and several others had to jump out.

"The guy took the door off," said Chris Pyle . "There was a little bit of confusion as to what to do with the door. He was kind of just standing there with the door. 'What do I do? What do I do?' And we're all yelling, 'Throw it! Just throw it out the plane!' "

"We're standing on the wing of the plane. And it's far down to the ground," said Melinda Pyle.

"Is there a ladder? Is there a chute?" said Chris Pyle. "There was nothing, and there was no instruction, really. So I just sat down and slid off the wing and turned around and caught my wife."

The Pyles escaped unhurt, though, American says one passenger injured an ankle.

The Pyles say they're just glad their kids weren't with them.

"I'm thinking, maybe, we don't fly on the same plane at the same time," said Melinda Pyle. "You never know." The Pyles, who live in west suburban Geneva, made it home early Thursday morning after renting a car and driving from Peoria.

Others took a shuttle bus provided by American.

The airline says it is investigating the cause of that smoke.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it is aware of the incident but at this time has not launched an investigation.

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