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British Airways plane catches fire at Las Vegas airport

159 passengers and 13 crew forced to flee burning vessel

Published 09/09/2015

Flames could be seen coming from the plane. Pic: Eric Hays via AP.
Flames could be seen coming from the plane. Pic: Eric Hays via AP.
Casinos along the Las Vegas Strip can be seen behind the plane. Pic: AP Photo/John Locher.
The fire broke out on Tuesday morning. Pic AP Photo/John Locher.
Smoke billows out from a plane that caught fire at McCarren International Airport. Pic: David Somers via AP.
A plane takes off behind a plane that caught fire at McCarren International Airport. Pic AP Photo/John Locher

A London-bound British Airways plane has caught fire at Las Vegas airport forcing the emergency evacuation of its passengers and crew.

Passengers had to escape on emergency slides after an engine fire broke out as the plane prepared for take-off.

Black smoke and orange flames could be seen pouring from under the plane's wings at McCarran International Airport in Nevada, sending passengers fleeing from the aircraft and across the tarmac before about 50 firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control.

All 159 passengers and 13 crew members aboard British Airways Flight 2276 were able to get off the plane, McCarran International Airport spokesman Chris Jones said.

Fire officials said 14 people were taken to Sunrise Hospital for minor injuries, mostly as a result of sliding down the inflatable chutes.

Flights were delayed as the Boeing 777 had made two of the airport's four runways inaccessible.

One of the runways reopened two and a half hours after the fire.

Passenger Reggie Bugmuncher, from Philadelphia said she was waiting at a gate for her flight when she heard people calling out.

She said she could see "bursts of flames coming out of the middle of the plane".

She added: "Everyone ran to the windows and people were standing on their chairs, looking out, holding their breath with their hands over their mouths."

The plane's emergency slides were deployed a few moments later and passengers quickly got off the plane. She said it was a "bit more orderly" than she would have expected, given the dramatic nature of the fire and smoke.

Firefighters stationed at the airport reached the plane two minutes after getting reports of flames, and within another three minutes, everyone inside the plane had escaped.

After firefighters extinguished the flames, emergency vehicles could be seen surrounding the aircraft, which was left sooty and grey from the smoke and fire retardant used to douse the flames.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the left engine of the twin-engine plane caught fire. The National Transportation Safety Board is collecting information about the incident, said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the agency in Washington.

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jon Klassen said the cause of the fire was not clear yet, but the fire did not appear to have breached the cabin.

The Boeing 777-200, popular with airlines for its fuel efficiency for long-haul flights, was bound for Gatwick Airport, near London.

In its 21-year history, the 777-200 has been involved in two fatal crashes: one in July 2013 that killed three passengers when an Asiana Airlines flight landed short of San Francisco International Airport's runway, and the Malaysia Airlines flight which disappeared last year.

British Airways spokeswoman Caroline Titmuss would not answer questions about Tuesday's fire in an email exchange, but said: "Safety is always our priority."

Ms Titmuss said in an email that the airline was "looking after customers", and pledged to release more information later.

The Las Vegas airport is the ninth-busiest in the US, and had nearly 43 million passengers last year.

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