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Debris rains down in Broomfield after plane engine blows apart; Boeing recommends all 777s with that engine be grounded

Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 1:56 PM MST
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BROOMFIELD, Colo. (KKTV) - A sports field littered with debris, a home with a hole, a one-story tall piece of engine leaning against a porch.

The images coming out of a Denver suburb following an unbelievable plane mishap Saturday are incredible.

Even more so: the fact that no one got hurt.

United Airlines says an engine on a Boeing 777 failed shortly after taking off from Denver International Airport.

The flight was bound for Hawaii and was just minutes into the journey when things went badly awry.

“I was sitting in the middle of the plane and there was a loud explosion,” passenger Mike Vena told 11 News sister station CBS Denver.

Thousands of feet below, citizens of Broomfield were going about their day when debris began raining down.

“We heard this big bang, and we just kind of looked at each other. Next thing you know, we heard another big bang and looked out our front window right as the engine cowl rolled into the tree,” said homeowner Kirby Klements, who told CBS Denver the engine part came within 10 feet of crashing through his home and killing him.

Another homeowner experienced an even closer call when an engine fragment fell through his kitchen ceiling while he was in the middle of making lunch.

In the air, passengers said the flight crew remained stoic in the face of calamity.

“There was no panic among the crew,” Vena said, adding that the pilot and crew’s professionalism kept the passengers calm as well.

The flight turned around and was able to make it back to DIA without further incident. All 231 passengers and 10 crew members were unharmed.

“If we could have stood up we would have given [the pilot] a standing ovation,” Vena said.

Over in Broomfield, it was close call after close call as police learned the scope of the incident.

Not a single injury reported.

“I’m honestly shocked, looking at this debris field and how busy Commons Park is. And, the fact that we are still not getting reports of any injuries is absolutely shocking at this point. It’s amazing,” said police department spokesperson Rachel Welte.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident and released an update on its findings Sunday evening.

“The initial examination of the airplane indicated most of the damage was confined to the number 2 engine; the airplane sustained minor damage. The examination and documentation of the airplane is ongoing.

“The initial examination of the Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine revealed:

  • The inlet and cowling separated from the engine
  • Two fan blades were fractured
  • One fan blade was fractured near the root
  • An adjacent fan blade was fractured about mid-span
  • A portion of one blade was imbedded in the containment ring
  • The remainder of the fan blades exhibited damage to the tips and leading edges

“Investigators continue to examine the engine, airplane and the photographs and video taken by passengers aboard United Flight 328.”

NTSB releases images Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, from its investigation of Saturday's engine failure...
NTSB releases images Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, from its investigation of Saturday's engine failure incident.(NTSB)
NTSB releases images Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, from its investigation of Saturday's engine failure...
NTSB releases images Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, from its investigation of Saturday's engine failure incident.(NTSB)
NTSB releases images Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, from its investigation of Saturday's engine failure...
NTSB releases images Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, from its investigation of Saturday's engine failure incident(NTSB)

Boeing is recommending all 777s with the engine involved in Saturday’s incident be grounded pending further inspection. Several airlines have said they are temporarily removing those planes from service.

The FAA has ordered United to step up inspection of those planes.

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