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Northern Ireland man tells of BA plane flames drama on Las Vegas runway

By Neil Lancefield

Published 10/09/2015

The Boeing 777-200 BA jet in flames on the runway at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The 159 passengers and 13 crew on board were able to escape via the plane’s emergency slides
The Boeing 777-200 BA jet in flames on the runway at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The 159 passengers and 13 crew on board were able to escape via the plane’s emergency slides
Northern Ireland man Shane McArdle

A man from Northern Ireland has revealed his terror after the passenger jet he was travelling on burst into flames.

The left engine of the Boeing 777-200 exploded at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, forcing 157 passengers, 10 crew and three pilots to evacuate through emergency slides.

Fire officials said at least 14 people were taken to hospital with minor injuries, mostly caused by them sliding down the inflatable chutes to escape.

Northern Ireland man Shane McArdle was on the London-bound British Airways flight engulfed by fire. "I was one of the first people off the plane," he said. "I just jumped down the slide and I looked up and saw the flames seemed to be about twice the height of the aircraft.

"This was before the first fire trucks arrived.

"They also came very quickly and there were probably just about 150 metres away when I was running away from the flames."

The captain and crew have been praised for their "textbook" response to the fire. However, it was reported that two of the emergency slides at the rear of the plane had failed to deploy properly.

The captain was named as Chris Henkey, from Reading, Berkshire, who has over four decades of flying experience with BA.

His ex-wife Marnie, who is a former cabin crew member and with whom he has a daughter, expressed her relief that Mr Henkey and the rest of the crew got out safely.

"He is safe and happy," she said.

"He did a bloody good job."

Later, Mr Henkey's fiancee Lenka Nevolna (40) said: "He's a hero. He's a great man with a warm heart, and generosity, and I'm very proud of him."

Asked if he is always so cool and calm, she said: "Yes, most of the time, and he's loved by everyone, we are very proud of him."

Ms Nevolna confirmed he was about to retire, adding: "Unfortunately what happened, we couldn't have predicted."

According to reports the captain was applauded by passengers when he spoke to them in the safety of the terminal building.

Aviation expert Julian Bray paid tribute to the way the passengers were guided to safety. He said: "It was a textbook emergency evacuation under difficult conditions because that smoke was thick, black and acrid."

General secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, Jim McAuslan, praised the "professional way the pilots and crew dealt with this emergency situation".

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