NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The FAA will be investigating why a plane’s engine caught fire at Newark Liberty International Airport, forcing an emergency evacuation of the flight and closing the airport for hours Tuesday night.
United Airlines Flight 1579 from Newark to San Francisco was getting ready for takeoff around 9 p.m. when a transmission from air traffic control came over the radio warning the pilot of fire shooting from the back right side of the plane.
“You have flames coming out of your back engine there,” air traffic control said, according to a recording on LiveATC.net.
The emergency chutes were deployed and the 124 passengers and seven crew members evacuated the smoking plane.
“‘Flight attendants prepare to evac’ and then the best thing I can do is describe it as controlled chaos,” said passenger Lo Toney. “I was sitting toward the back and everyone just started to rush off the plane and the flight attendants were telling us, ‘get off the plane, get off the plane.'”
Two minutes later, another transmission to other aircrafts on the tarmac came through.
“Alright everybody that’s it. You may want to shut down they are evacuating. We are going to be here a while.”
The fire was put out by Port Authority aircraft rescue firefighters before it could spread, but air traffic at Newark Airport was shut down for hours as passengers were bused from the taxiway to another terminal.
Other flights were diverted. George Pomianek arrived to the airport to find his wife’s flight from San Fransisco had landed in Washington D.C. after being switched to avoid the evacuation scene on the tarmac.
“Bigger picture, people are safe,” he said. “I’m happy so I have to stay out a little late tonight that’s all.”
Five people suffered minor injuries in the panic to get out.
The FAA is now examining the plane and its engine to determine the cause of the fire.