20 injured after plane catches fire at O'Hare

CHICAGO (FOX 32 NEWS) - Flames and heavy black smoke poured from the side of an American Airlines jet that aborted takeoff and caught fire on the runway at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Friday, forcing 170 crew and passengers to evacuate and resulting in eight injuries, authorities said.

Pilots on American Airlines Flight 383 bound for Miami reported an engine-related mechanical issue, according to airline spokeswoman Leslie Scott. She said seven passengers and a flight attendant with minor injuries were taken to a hospital to be evaluated.

Footage from the scene showed the Boeing 767, which appeared to be damaged on its rear and along its right side, sitting on the runway with flames underneath and shooting from one side along with plumes of smoke. The right wing was drooping toward the ground and appeared to have partially melted.

"The motors were spinning like they always do and it didn't take off yet, it almost felt like it was going to and then boom," said Gary Schiavone, who was a passenger on board. "I'm thinking the planes going to blow up because there's gas in the wings."

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Passengers came down emergency slides, hurrying across grass next to the runway as emergency vehicles surrounded the plane.

"It cracked the window on the right side of the plane, pretty big flame, pretty big ball, first there was a clunk after the explosion," Schiavone said. He was on his way to Miami with his wife to visit their daughter.

On cell phone video shot on board the plane, you could hear a woman, believed to be a flight attendant, yelling "go, go, go, go" as passengers hurried out the emergency exits. With the fire raging on the right side, the passengers and nine crew members all had to deplane off the left side.

"We're all going like, 'oh my God, let's get out of here,' you know and like I said, it was organized chaos," Schiavone said.

Twenty people were hurt, but none seriously. The fire department said they suffered ankle injuries and friction burns from sliding down the inflatable emergency exit ramps.

"The smoke was the worst thing, about halfway through getting out the smoke started to get a little bit heavy so you get a deep breath to get some oxygen, and that was the scariest part of the whole thing," Schiavone said

The Fire Department was on scene in less than two minutes attacking the fire, but there were major challenges.

"Plane just taking off, going to Miami, it was fully loaded with fuel, 767. So roughly 43,000 pounds of fuel, so substantial amount of fuel on the aircraft and it was leaking so they had a heavy volume of fire," said Timothy Sampey, Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner.

"This could've been absolutely devastating if it happened later," Sampey said.

"I feel pretty unlucky it happened, but I feel lucky I'm here. Twenty seconds later would've been up in the air, would've been done," Schiavone said.

Buses were sent to pick up the passengers and bring them back to the terminal, the airline said. The passengers were to be placed on another flight to Miami Friday evening.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating, said in a statement that the plane made an emergency stop around 2:35 p.m. after experiencing a problem during takeoff. An earlier FAA statement said the plane had blown a tire.

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the incident, with investigators expected to arrive on the scene Friday evening, spokesman Keith Holloway said.

The Chicago Fire Department tweeted that there was an extra-alarm emergency response at the airport. Fire officials couldn't immediately be reached for further comment.

Passenger Sarah Ahmed says the plane was almost in the air when she heard a loud bang and saw a fire out the window.

"The plane comes to a screeching stop," she told the TV station. "People are yelling, `Open the door! Open the door!' Everyone's screaming and jumping on top of each other to open the door."

The Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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