CHICAGO, Illinois- The Chicago Tribune reports American Airlines Flight 383 was rolling down the runway at O’Hare International Airport Friday afternoon, bound for Miami, when the plane skidded to a halt just as it was lifting off.
A traffic controller got on the radio. “American 383 heavy,” he said, referring to the Boeing 767’s weight class. “Stopping on the runway.”
“Roger, roger. Fire,” the pilot calmly replied, according to a recording of tower radio traffic. “Fire off the right wing.” Then seconds later, “American 383, we’re evacuating.”
The plane’s 161 passengers and nine crew members scrambled down emergency chutes on the left side of the plane while flames flared and thick black smoke billowed from the wing on the right side, according to the airline and video from the scene.
Twenty people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, mostly bruises and ankle problems, according to Fire Chief Juan Hernandez, the EMS chief at the airport.
“The smoke started coming in and the flames just started going along the windows on the right side,” said one of the passengers, Alan Lemery, 62, from the River North neighborhood. “Everybody started panicking at that point.”
People rushed toward the exits. “Then for some reason, everything happened very slowly and orderly,” said his wife, Marta Lemery.
Video of the scene shows passengers sliding down chutes. Many of the passengers can be seen running across a median of grass, some lugging their bags. Some passengers gather a distance away and watch as fire trucks circle the plane.
American Airlines flight caught fire while rolling out of Chicago O’Hare on Runway 28R. Fire is now under control ⚠ pic.twitter.com/Rj8XYqm1qw
— Flight Alerts ⚠ (@FlightAlerts777) October 28, 2016