Debris falls from plane during emergency landing near Denver

  • People look over debris that fell off a plane due to an engine failure Saturday in Broomfield, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Debris from a United Airlines plane fell onto Denver suburbs during an emergency landing Saturday after one of its engines suffered a catastrophic failure and rained pieces of the engine casing on a neighborhood where it narrowly missed a home.

The plane landed safely, and nobody aboard or on the ground was reported hurt, authorities said.

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The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that the Boeing 777-200 returned to the Denver International Airport after experiencing a right-engine failure shortly after takeoff. Flight 328 was flying from Denver to Honolulu when the incident occurred, the agency said. United said in a separate statement that there were 231 passengers and 10 crew on board. All passengers were to be rebooked on a new flight to Hawaii, the airline said.

The Broomfield Police Department posted photos on Twitter showing large, circular pieces of debris leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver. Police are asking that anyone injured come forward.

Passengers recounted a terrifying ordeal.

The aircraft was almost at cruising altitude and the captain was giving an announcement over the intercom when a large explosion rocked the cabin, accompanied by a bright flash.

“The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down,” said David Delucia, a passenger. “When it initially happened, I thought we were done.”

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Delucia and his wife took their wallets containing their driver’s licenses and put them in their pockets so that “in case we did go down, we could be ID’d,” said Delucia, who was still shaken up as he waited to board another flight for Honolulu.

Aviation safety experts said the plane appeared to have suffered an uncontained and catastrophic engine failure. Such an event is extremely rare and happens when huge spinning discs inside the engine suffer some sort of failure and breach the armored casing around the engine that is designed to contain the damage, said John Cox, an aviation safety expert and retired airline pilot.

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