20 injured in O'Hare plane fire caused by 'uncontained' engine failure

ByChuck Goudie, Eric Horng, and Will Jones WLS logo
Saturday, October 29, 2016
20 injured in plane fire caused by engine failure
Officials said 20 people sustained minor injuries when a plane caught fire at O'Hare International Airport Friday afternoon.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Officials said 20 people sustained minor injuries when a plane caught fire at O'Hare International Airport Friday afternoon.

District Chief of EMS for O'Hare Juan Hernandez said 20 people had been transported to local hospitals with minor injuries including bruising, scrapes and ankle injuries sustained in the evacuation of the plane.

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American Airlines flight 383 bound for Miami was forced to abort takeoff at about 2:35 p.m. The pilot heard a thump and thought a tire had blown. The air traffic control tower alerted the pilot to flames. A large fire quickly consumed the plane's right-side engine and wing. Flight crew immediately stopped the plane and evacuated it using the inflatable slides on the left hand side of the aircraft.

Federal officials said the cause of the fire was "uncontained" engine failure, meaning pieces were blown out of the engine. It is possible that scraps of a blow tire had been sucked into the turbine, causing the engine to break apart and ignite spilling fuel but investigators have not confirmed that.

All 170 passengers, including flight crew, and a dog were evacuated, Chicago Deputy Fire Commissioner Timothy Sampey said.

WATCH: Officials update O'Hare plane fire

Officials at O'Hare Airport hold a press conference to discuss Friday afternoon plane fire.

Sampey said the fire was mostly extinguished quickly, but crews are still working to put out hot spots on the plane. The plane was carrying 43,000 lbs. of fuel at the time.

"This could have been absolutely devastating if it happened later, if it happened farther. There's about a thousand variables but again, they brought the aircraft to a halt, the air tower did a great job communicating to the pilot what fire they saw and they got everybody off the plane immediately," Sampey said.

Patients were taken to Lutheran General Hospital, Community First Hospital and Presence Resurrection Medical Center. Of the 20 people taken for treatment, eight have been treated and released Friday night.

Peter McLoyd and his wife Kathleen were both taken to Presence Resurrection for treatment.

"I heard an explosion, or what I thought was an explosion. We looked at each other and I was looking to my right and on the other side I could see fire," Peter said.

The couple were injured as they evacuated the plane.

"She took a tumble as soon as she hit the tarmac, but I was able to avoid her. But the person who came after me crashed into her which created some injuries," he said.

Even with their injuries they're thankful they and everyone else on board survived.

"I was thinking, are we gonna get far enough away before it explodes," Kathleen said.

Six passengers were taken to Lutheran General.

"Minor orthopedic injuries, back pain as well," said Dr. Terry Chiganos of the injuries sustained.

Gary Schiavone was seated in the rear of the plane as it sped down the runway.

"The motors were spinning like they always do, and it didn't take off yet. It just almost felt like it was going to, and then boom. A big red ball of flame," Schiavone said.

According to Schiavone, the heat from the fire cracked windows on that side of the plane.

"The smoke was the worst thing. About halfway through getting out, the smoke started to get a little bit heavy. You get a deep breath to get some oxygen, and you took in smoke, and that was the scariest part of the whole thing," he said.

He said the evacuation was orderly, and that children and seniors got help from fellow passengers.

"And then when we got out of the plane, everything was on fire, and the smoke. You've seen the videos. We were just like in awe when we got out," he said.

WATCH: Gary Schiavone describes his experience on AA383

Gary, a passenger on American Airlines flight 383, recounts his experience on the plane.

Passenger Hector Cardenas said the plane was seconds away from taking off when he heard an explosion. Large flames and a plume of black smoke could be seen rising from the aircraft.

WATCH: Hector Cardenas describes his experience on the plane

Hector Cardenas, a passenger on the plane that caught fire at O'Hare, talks about his experience and shares video from inside the plane.

"Within 10 or 15 seconds we would have been in the air," Cardenas said.

Sarah Ahmed was also on the flight and described the chaos in the moments after the fire broke out.

"We were almost up in the air. We were full throttle, full speed ahead and then we heard this huge bang and there's fire at the window, and so everyone on the right side of the plane got up, jumped up and they'er now on the left side of the plane. So there's a stampede at the left side. The plane comes to a screeching stop. People are yelling 'open the door, open the door!' everyone's screaming and jumping on top of each other to open the door. Within that time, I think it was seven seconds, there was now smoke in the plane and the fire is right up against the windows and it's melting the windows," Ahmed said.

WATCH: Sarah Ahmed describes her experience no the plane

Sarah Ahmed, a passenger on AA Flight 383, describes her experience after the plane caught fire seconds before takeoff Friday.

Conversation between the cockpit and air traffic control revealed how quickly the situation unfolded.

Pilot: "American 383 heavy stopping on the runway."

Tower: "Roger, roger. Fire."

Pilot: "Do you see any smoke or fire?"

Tower: "Yeah fire off the right wing."

Pilot: "Ok, send out the truck."

Tower: "Sending them."

Tower: "American 383 can you give us any information right now?"

Pilot: "Uh, standby. Chicago American 383, we're evacuating."

Tower: "American 383 roger, trucks are on the way."

In a statement, the airline said, "American Airlines is fully cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board in its investigation of flight 383. We are operating a special flight tonight to take our customers to Miami. Twenty passengers and one flight attendant reported non-critical injuries. Several were transported to Chicago-area hospitals to be evaluated. Members of American's specially trained employee volunteer CARE Team have been mobilized and dispatched to those hospitals, and Chicago O'Hare International Airport to provide assistance for our customers, crew members and their families."

The National Transportation Safety Board have taken over the investigation. The plane will remain on the runway until the NTSB is finished with their on-site investigation.

Sampey said in his estimation it's been about eight years since an incident equivalent to this occurred at O'Hare.

One runway remains closed at O'Hare. Operations at the airport are normal. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are on their way to O'Hare Airport s of 4 p.m.

ABC7 Doppler 7 MAX picked up the smoke plume from the plane fire on radar.

The smoke plume from the plane fire at O'Hare Airport was captured on radar by Doppler 7 MAX.