Belfast Telegraph

FlyBe plane fire: Student hailed for helping others to flee stricken plane

By Joanne Sweeney

A quick-thinking student has been praised for helping passengers to safety after the Flybe flight's emergency landing following a fire in one of its engines.

Owen Glenn (21), from Bangor, was one of at least 12 passengers who had to jump six feet onto the runway from the rear of the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 plane during the frantic evacuation at Belfast International Airport.

He was praised by fellow passenger Billy Pollock for helping him and others get safely away from the aircraft during Tuesday night's drama.

Last night modest Owen downplayed his role in the incident and said: "I never did much, I was just doing what I could to help."

However, a spokesman for Flybe paid tribute to the student for his brave actions and said: "Big praise should go to the customer that helped fellow customers."

Airline spokesman Andrew McConnell added that the evacuation procedure used at the rear of the plane - involving passengers jumping out of the door onto the Tarmac - was "in line with the operating procedure set out by the manufacturer".

"Due to the height of the aircraft, passengers can disembark like that in an emergency situation," he said.

Mr McConnell also stressed that the plane was capable of being flown on one engine, but at reduced speed.

"There are fire extinguishers within the engine systems and that is why we were aware that the fire was put out before the plane landed," he added.

While most of the 76 passengers on the aircraft evacuated from the front door steps, passengers sitting at the rear followed the instructions of the stewardess and jumped down from the plane.

Third-year veterinary student Owen was heading home for Christmas from Glasgow University when he got caught up in the drama.

Fellow passenger Mr Pollock, from north Down, explained what happened when the plane landed: "We were all fairly calm and relieved as the pilot landed the plane very well. Then suddenly panic broke out when we heard shouting of 'evacuate, evacuate'.

"The stewardess opened both doors at the rear and just kept shouting 'evacuate, evacuate, jump, jump, jump'. That caused more issues as people were reticent to jump out of the aircraft."

Owen added: "There was quite a big drop. I could make it OK because I'm a young lad, but there were a few older people aboard and I just helped them get down.

"I was focused, not scared," he said.

"I was just trying to help people, that's all. The engine wasn't blazing with fire and the fire crews were there, so I wasn't too worried then."

Mr Pollock praised Owen for continuing to help others while passengers were being urged to assemble behind the fire appliance once they left the plane.

He said: "I jumped and I landed on him. He didn't manage to hold me and I bashed my elbow. I'm a bit sore and stiff today but he broke my fall.

"If he hadn't have been there I would have landed a lot worse. Then he very heroically caught other people as they jumped.

"It was raining heavily at the time and it all felt a bit scary."

Mr Pollock, a former aeronautical engineer, disputed Flybe's statement that the engine fire was a "small one".

He said: "Myself and a few people close by noticed the flames right away. We drew attention of this to the steward and he alerted the captain; it took a few minutes to get it out.

"They said it was a small fire but it was definitely not a small fire. It was obvious that it was a pretty full-blown engine fire."

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