‘Could Have Been Devastating': 20 Taken to Hospitals as American Airlines Plane Catches Fire at O'Hare Airport, Officials Say

An incident involving an American Airlines plane prompted a major emergency response at O'Hare International Airport, authorities said. 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines Flight 383 was departing from O'Hare and was headed to Miami when it experienced "a problem during takeoff." American Airlines said the plane had an engine malfunction. 

Gary Schiavone, of Demott, Ind., said he was sitting in the middle of the plane, travelling with his wife to visit their daughter in Miami.

“We started to take off, we didn’t get in the air, it seemed like the right side engine blew—big ball of fire,” Schiavone said, adding that window on the plane then cracked.

The pilots aborted the takeoff and passengers exited via a chute as flames were reported, authorities said. 

The airline said in a statement that seven passengers and one crew member reported injuries and were transported to area hospitals for evaluation, but fire officials said during a later press conference that as many as 20 people were transported to area hospitals. 

Most of those transported suffered minor injuries and were listed in stable condition, according to District Chief Juan Hernandez. 

There were 161 passengers and nine crew members on the plane, the airline said.

An incident involving an American Airlines plane prompted a major emergency response at O’Hare International Airport, authorities said. Trina Orlando reports.

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital said it was treating four people from the scene. Presence Resurrection Medical Center reported three patients from the scene in unknown condition. 

The FAA reported that a runway was closed at the airport due to a "disabled aircraft." The FAA initially reported a ground stop at O'Hare after the incident, but the Chicago Department of Aviation said as of 3:30 p.m. three runways were closed at the airport. Ongoing delays were expected, airport officials said. 

Chicago fire officials reported an emergency at the scene, saying "aircraft down at O'Hare." 

“We were 30 seconds into the safety video, about ‘do not grab your luggage in an emergency,’” Schiavone said, noting that several passengers attempted to get their bags during the emergency evacuation. “It could have caused a big problem—don’t get your luggage in a situation like that.”

The incident prompted an extra-alarm response. 


The Chicago Department of Aviation said fire officials responded to an aircraft on fire. 

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Smoke and fire could be seen at the airport just after 2:30 p.m. 

The National Transportation Safety Board said three investigators were being dispatched to Chicago following the fire. 

"This could have been absolutely devastating if it happened later, if it happened farther, there's about a thousand variables," said Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner of Airport Operations Timothy Sampey. 

The cause of the fire remained under investigation. 

Check back for details on this developing story.

New recordings from the air traffic control tower show a conversation between the cockpit and the tower the moment pilots knew they had a problem.
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