An engine failure aboard a commercial flight departing Denver International Airport rained debris on a Broomfield neighborhood before the plane and its 231 passengers and 10 crew members safely landed Saturday afternoon.
Airport authorities say United Airlines flight 328, which departed at 12:15 p.m., was bound for Honolulu when the incident occurred.
Broomfield police received a call about debris falling out of the sky at 1:09 p.m., officials said. The plane returned safely to the airport at 1:30.
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) February 20, 2021
David Delucia, a passenger on the plane, recalled a loud, cabin-rattling explosion, a bright flash, and 20 minutes of terror before they touched down.
“The plane started shaking violently, and we lost altitude and we started going down,” Delucia told the Associated Press.
Delucia said he and his wife moved their wallets — which contained their driver’s licenses — to their pockets so they would be more easily identified if the plane crashed.
“I thought we were done,” said Delucia, who was sitting directly across the aisle from the blown engine. “I thought we were going down.”
On the ground, parts of the twin-engined Boeing 777-200 aircraft, including pieces of a jet engine cowling, landed near homes northwest of Denver. At least one house was hit directly by debris.
Maryann Klements and her husband, Kirby, were sitting in their living room, enjoying a quiet Saturday afternoon, when a “supersonic” boom shook their entire house.
“I can’t even try to describe how loud it was, but I looked at my husband and said ‘what the heck was that?’,” Maryann Klements said.
“A few moments later we walked outside and saw this big round thing in our yard and we just went into complete shock.”
The debris only damaged their truck and a section of siding and gutters. But they knew it could have been a lot worse.
“If it had been 10 feet different, it would have landed right on top of the house,” Kirby Klements told the Associated Press.
“Things could’ve ended a lot differently, but I’m very thankful that everyone appears to be safe,” Maryann said.
The Federal Aviation Administration told Gazette news partner 9News that the aircraft’s right engine failed shortly after takeoff. It was unclear what caused the engine to fail or why the problem caused parts of the jet’s housing to part from the plane.
In the past, this has been an indication of a turbine failure, which can launch pieces of the jet engine rocketing through the housing at high speed.
—AUDIO FROM COCKPIT—Air traffic radio captured the moment United Pilots called out mayday as their engine failed over #Denver.Plane landed safely, but scattered debris throughout the metro area.@CBSDenver https://t.co/yZnCNMbiQW pic.twitter.com/dKBTdPLFFK
— Dillon Thomas (@DillonMThomas) February 20, 2021
Neighbors also reported sounds of an explosion, which would be consistent with an uncontrolled turbine failure.
Tracking on the website www.flightaware.com shows the jet took off and circled the field before landing.
A video posted to Twitter by witnesses on the ground showed an apparent explosion before the debris fell.
Authorities said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the engine failure.
“If you find debris PLEASE don’t touch it or move it,” Broomfield police tweeted. “The @NTSB wants all debris to remain in place for investigation.”