A United Airlines flight from Newark Airport to San Francisco was evacuated on Tuesday night before takeoff, after a fire apparently broke out in one of the engines. The passengers left the plane by the emergency slides, and one told us that flight attendants were screaming, "Get away from the plane! Go down the slides and run away from the plane!"
United Flight 1579 typically departs around 8:30 p.m. from the NJ airport, landing in San Francisco International Airport before midnight local time. "It was supposed to leave at 8:20 p.m., [but] at 9 p.m. we were still on the tarmac. The captain said we were in traffic, 18th in line to depart," a passenger told us.
Then, according to the passenger, "the lights cut out and the captain told the crew to prepare to evacuate. He gave the evacuation order and we heard screaming coming from the back of the plane. The flight attendants screamed, 'Get off the plane! Get off the plane!' We went down the slides as they screamed, 'Get away from the plane! Go down the slides and run away from the plane!'"
The passenger explained that everyone ran out onto the tarmac—"It was dark, we were running afraid"— before fire trucks arrived to spray the right engine. Buses eventually transported the passengers to the United Lounge, said the passenger, who saw three people treated for injuries.
"They've closed the bar and won't let us drink," the passenger added.
Busses arriving at scene to pick up passengers from EWR flight. pic.twitter.com/HORK3fVgNE
— Steve Smith (@ardalis) May 24, 2017
#EWR has reopened after earlier incident of plane with apparent engine fire. Reports of 5 minor injuries. Expect delays remainder of night.
— Newark Airport (@EWRairport) May 24, 2017
United issued a statement shortly after the incident: "During taxiing of United flight 1579 from Newark to San Francisco, the tower notified the crew of what appeared to be flames from one of the engines. The crew immediately deployed the slides and evacuated the aircraft. At this time we have a report of only one minor injury. Customers are being transported back to the terminal. We are working to get our customers to San Francisco as soon as possible."
Flight 1579 finally left Newark at 1:16 a.m. earlier this morning and landed at SFO at 3:42 am. Today there is a shareholder meeting for United Airlines, where questions about the April dragging incident are expected to be lobbed at CEO Oscar Munoz.