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Passengers Panic, Force Open Jet's Door After Seeing Flames

December 27, 1985|Associated Press

CHICAGO — Two passengers who panicked when flames shot out of the engine of a jetliner preparing for takeoff forced open an emergency exit and slid to the ground on a chute, United Airlines said Thursday.

United spokesman Joseph Hopkins said the two passengers "panicked and took it upon themselves to evacuate" the DC-10 Wednesday after they saw flames shoot from the engine compartment. The flight, which originated in San Diego and was heading to Boston from Chicago, had 150 passengers aboard.

The malfunction "was unusual, but it certainly didn't warrant evacuation," he said. Hopkins compared it to a car's backfiring.

"It is unfortunate that the passengers took this thing into their own hands," he said.

But one passenger said the plane's crew mishandled the incident.

Pilot Revved Engine

Flames shot into the air as the pilot revved up the engine for takeoff from O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday, Hopkins said.

Passenger Kim Kawlick, 24, one of those who slid from the plane, said she was sleeping when she heard someone scream, "Fire!"

"A man was already trying to open the emergency door, but it wouldn't move," she said. "Then two people finally pushed it at the bottom, and it opened."

Passenger Joseph Diamond, 41, of Los Angeles said airline employees did not try to calm passengers.

"We were looking for a stewardess to tell us what to do, and when they came back they just started screaming and chastising the man who opened the door," he said. "They didn't do anything to put the passengers at ease. They just contributed to the panic."

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