Reprinted from reviewjournal.com. By Ana Ley and Kimberly De La Cruz.
Clark County officials on Wednesday touted crews’ swift response to a fire on a British Airways plane at McCarran International Airport, but some passengers recall a slower reaction to the blaze from the carrier’s employees.
Las Vegas couple Stuart Sheinman and Sally Dewhurst said they had to demand crews open the cabin door of the Boeing 777-200 Tuesday afternoon before they were eventually let off the burning aircraft. Smoke was visible from their 13th-row seats, they said, prompting their push to expedite the emergency exit.
At one point, a pilot stepped out of the cockpit to warn passengers to return to their seats, Sheinman said. Then when the pilot saw flames, he instructed the crew to “get these people off the plane.”
“It felt like forever,” Sheinman said about the wait. Once the slides ejected, Sheinman said, his wife was the first to escape.
When asked to address the complaints, British Airways representative Noel Meehan wrote in an email that “the well-being of our customers is our top priority,” noting that the airline is trying to find new flights for stranded passengers.
The engine fire — the biggest ever reported at McCarran — was spotted about 4 p.m. Tuesday as the plane accelerated for take off, speeding at more than 100 mph down a runway.
First responders took 27 people to Las Vegas Valley hospitals for minor injuries they got from sliding down the chutes, Clark County Fire Department Chief Greg Cassell said Wednesday. A few people complained about smoke inhalation.
Four investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were descending on the site of the fire Wednesday to assess its cause and the damage to the plane, agency spokesman Eric Weiss said.
Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Pacific Division said the plane’s left engine had burst into flames on takeoff.
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