About 20 people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries that occurred during the evacuation down the emergency slides, District Chief Juan Hernandez said. There were people with minor bruising or injured ankles, he said. None of the injuries were caused by the fire.
American Airlines spokeswoman Leslie Scott said Flight 383 was bound for Miami when it aborted takeoff due to an engine-related issue.
The rare, but extremely serious, engine failure sent debris from the engine spewing across the south side of the expansive airfield. Part of the engine’s fan disc were found a half mile away on a building used by UPS, two sources said.
A passenger who was sitting in the middle of row 31 said he heard a loud clunk, then saw a large ball of flame that he assumed came from the engine area. Gary Schiavone of DeMotte, Indiana, said the captain was able to stop the aircraft quickly, and then it was “coordinated chaos.”
There wasn’t much yelling or screaming, he told reporters, except passengers who shouted at others who were trying to grab their bags from the overhead bins. Schiavone said about 30 seconds into the evacuation, smoke started to pour into the cabin. The difficulty in breathing was the scariest part, he said.
Asked whether he was afraid he was going to die, Schiavone said, “Of course. I’m thinking the plane is going to blow up.”
Schiavone complimented the crew for getting everyone out in what he estimated was about a minute.
Video tweeted by a witness on the ground showed an airliner with a large tower of smoke rising from the right side and flames billowing beneath the fuselage. The video showed passengers coming down two of the emergency slides on the 767’s left side. A dog also evacuated, officials said.
Josiah Ryan, senior producer for Social TV at CNN, was aboard a flight landing at O’Hare. Shortly after their American Airlines flight landed, their captain told passengers over the loudspeaker, “We’re near our gate, but there has been an accident on one of the runways.”