A United Airlines flight was forced to return to Denver International Airport Saturday after it suffered an engine failure shortly after takeoff, sending aircraft debris raining down on soccer fields, homes and yards in a Denver suburb.
United Flight 328 returned to the airport around 1:30 p.m. after suffering an engine issue, an airport spokesperson told CNN. The flight had been bound for Honolulu. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed in a statement that the Boeing 777-200 safely returned to the Denver International Airport after “experiencing a right-engine failure shortly after takeoff.”
“The FAA is aware of reports of debris in the vicinity of the airplane’s flight path,” the statement said.The flight returned about 20 minutes after the police department in Broomfield, Colorado, said via Twitter that it had received reports that an airplane flying over the Denver suburb had engine trouble and had “dropped debris in several neighborhoods around 1:08 p.m.””No injuries reported at this time,” according to the tweet.
Additional tweets from police said debris landed in Commons Park and the Northmoor and Red Leaf neighborhoods of Broomfield. The city is about 25 miles north of Denver and 30 miles west of Denver International Airport. Images from the scene showed large pieces of debris lying in the front yards of homes and a soccer field at the local park. CNN affiliate KCNC shared photos showing the smashed cabin of a resident’s pickup truck. Another CNN affiliate, KMGH, shared photos of a hole in the roof of a local home.
United Airlines told CNN there were 241 people, including 10 crew members, aboard Flight 328. All passengers have safely deplaned and are at a terminal in Denver, where the airline is working to get them on a new flight.”United Flight 328 experienced an engine failure and safely returned to Denver. We are in contact with the FAA, NTSB and local law enforcement,” United Airlines said in a statement. “The NTSB is investigating and has directed that any persons with debris from this event contact their local law enforcement agency.”
The union representing United pilots commended the crew of Flight 328 and said Saturday “there is no substitute for experience.” “We are thankful for the tremendous teamwork shown by the entire flight and cabin crew, and that there were no injuries on the ground or in the air,” the United Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, International told CNN in a statement.
Pilots are heard issuing a mayday call, telling air traffic controllers “we’ve experienced engine failure,” according to air traffic control communications with Flight 328 obtained by CNN. Police received calls from residents who said they’d heard a loud explosion, said Rachel Welte of the Broomfield Police Department at a Saturday news conference.”Then they just started seeing basically what they thought was a plane falling from the sky. What it was was debris,” Welte said, describing the debris as “possibly some exterior pieces of the plane.”
Welte, speaking at the local park, stressed how much worse things could have been.”We could have hundreds of people here and the fact that we’re not getting reports of any injuries is absolutely shocking at this point,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Police are working to contain the secure the large debris field for the National Transportation Safety Board, which will be in charge of the investigation, according to the FAA. Broomfield police said the debris field is a mile long.
“NTSB has opened an investigation into the Feb. 20, 2021, engine event on a United 777. Denver-based NTSB investigators are responding,” NTSB public affairs officer Peter Knudson told CNN. Some of the jetliner debris is now in the custody of the NTSB, according to local police. Starting to remove debris,” the Broomfield Police Department tweeted Saturday night. The department says the debris will be taken to a hangar at Denver International Airport.
In the meantime, Broomfield police cautioned residents to not touch or move plane debris if they see it in their yard as the NTSB “wants all debris to remain in place for investigation.”United Airlines says the flight did not dump fuel, such as after engine failures on other commercial airliners. This is often necessary when an emergency landing is needed soon after takeoff because the plane may be too heavy to safely land. It’s not clear why the crew elected to not dump fuel. According to radar tracking data, the flight made it to a relatively low 13,000 feet.
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