Plane debris rains down on Denver suburbs during fiery emergency landing

·3 min read
Pieces of an airplane in backyards in Broomfield, a Denver suburb
Pieces of an airplane in backyards in Broomfield, a Denver suburb

Debris from a US passenger jet fell onto Denver suburbs during an emergency landing on Saturday, with one very large piece narrowly missing a home.

The United Airlines flight was bound for Honolulu when it suffered a right engine failure shortly after take off from Denver International Airport.

Large pieces of debris could be seen falling from the sky in Broomfield, a suburb north of Denver, before the aircraft was able to return safely to the airport.

Remarkably, nobody aboard or on the ground was reported injured, Broomfield Police Department said.

Photos posted by the police department showed large, circular pieces of debris from the Boeing 777-200 leaning against a house in the suburb about 25 miles north of Denver.

Officials are investigating how the malfunction occurred
Officials are investigating how the malfunction occurred

"If you find debris PLEASE don’t touch it or move it. The @NTSB wants all debris to remain in place for investigation," the Broomfield police department said on Twitter.

No other details were immediately available from authorities.

The aircraft was almost at cruising altitude and the captain was giving an announcement over the intercom when a large explosion rocked the cabin, accompanied by a bright flash.

"The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down," said David Delucia, who was sitting directly across the aisle from the side with the failed engine. "When it initially happened, I thought we were done. I thought we were going down."

A part from a United Airlines jetliner sits in the middle of Elmwood Street - AP
A part from a United Airlines jetliner sits in the middle of Elmwood Street - AP

Residents in Broomfield reported large pieces of the plane scattered around their community, including a giant circular piece of metal that landed in the yard of Kirby Klements.

"It was a little overwhelming," he told CNN.

"It landed square on top of my truck and fell off," he said, reporting that a separate large piece of debris had put a five-foot (1.5-meter) hole in a neighbour's roof.

Tyler Thal, who lives in the area, told the Associated Press that he was out for a walk with his family when he noticed a large commercial plane flying unusually low and took out his phone to film it.

"While I was looking at it, I saw an explosion and then the cloud of smoke and some debris falling from it. It was just like a speck in the sky and as I’m watching that, I’m telling my family what I just saw and then we heard the explosion," he said.

"The plane just kind of continued on and we didn’t see it after that."

Heather Solar was running a practice at the park for her girls' soccer team when she said she heard an explosion, following by debris raining down.

"Honestly, what I thought it was at first... I thought we were being bombed," Solar told The Denver Post. "There was so much debris in the sky."

In an audio recording, a United pilot could be heard making a mayday call to air traffic control.

"Mayday, aircraft just experienced engine failure, need to turn immediately," according to audio from the monitoring website which was reviewed by Reuters.

Mr Thal was relieved to learn later that the plane had made a safe landing.

The FAA said it and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate United Flight 328.