'People were freaking out': Passengers forced to jump from United plane after engine fire

Plane was traveling from Newark to George Bush Intercontinental Airport

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Vincent Crivelli - Reporter

HOUSTON - Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Houston lived through some scary moments after they saw flames shooting from one of the engines.

According to authorities, the incident happened around 10:20 p.m. just as the 3.5-hour flight was coming to an end and the plane began its descent into George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The Boeing 737-900 was traveling from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, according to the Associated Press.

Philip Morrow, one of the people on the flight said about two minutes before landing, said he looked out his window and saw enormous flames coming from the back of the left wing engine.

Morrow said the plane landed without incident and people were evacuated from the aircraft, but despite the chaos, he never really felt as if he was in danger.

"(There were) just enourmous flames coming from the back of the left wing engine," Morrow said. "The weirdest thing for me was how peaceful I felt with it. I don't know why, I just wasn't that scared when I saw it because, I guess, I trusted that the flight crew would have let us know that there was anything to worry about. So I plan to fly again."

However, not all passengers were able to keep their cool.

Chris Morrison said people were desperate to find out what was going on.

“People were starting to panic and everyone kept hitting the flight attendant call button, I guess to try to figure out what was going on,” Morrison said. “They made an announcement to stop doing that unless it was a medical emergency, but it was such a bad vibration and the optics of flashes coming from the engine that people were freaking out, so they kept doing it.”

Morrison said it might take some time for him to get over the incident.

"I do not like flying. There was a very crazy distinct vibration, the whole plane. I saw a flash of light outside the window. I just kept saying in my head, 'Please get this plane on the ground safely.' I don't know if I am going to sleep for a couple of days after that. It was quite an experience."

Passengers said they were evacuated onto the tarmac without their luggage and were taken by bus to the United Club where they were given more information.

There was a sense of panic," said Leonard Weiner. "The pilot said evacuate. I was hearing some sounds (that are) not what I usually hear when I fly. We had to evacuate. We had to leave without our luggage and we had to go down the chute and we had to do it as fast as we could."

There were no reports of injuries, and an investigation into the incident is underway.

The 737 plane is different from the 737 MAX planes, which was involved in the recent Ethiopian Air crash.

United Airlines released a statement regarding the incident:

United flight 1168 from Newark, New Jersey to Houston experienced an issue with one of the engines shortly before landing. After landing safely, customers were evacuated from the aircraft and were bussed to the terminal. Local authorities responded immediately and our maintenance team is currently inspecting the aircraft. 

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