‘It just blew fire’: Kauai woman watched as an engine fell apart on United flight 328

Updated: Feb. 21, 2021 at 1:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii woman experienced first hand what she called a frightening, yet well-handled, engine failure onboard the Honolulu-bound United Airlines flight 328 Saturday.

Barbara Underwood of Kauai was flying back to the islands on the Boeing 777 when the plane’s right-wing engine blew out and scattered metal debris across Colorado suburbs.

Underwood, a frequent flyer, was traveling with her husband Ed. She was sitting on the right side of the plane and said at first, she thought nothing seemed out of the ordinary as the plane gained altitude.

“I looked out the window and I saw the engine,” she said. “I noticed it was just shaking a lot. And I thought, well, it’s the turbulence.”

[Read more: Debris from HNL-bound flight falls over Colorado homes leading to emergency landing]

“And then as I was looking at it, it just blew fire. And that ring thing around it just flew off and then it was just smoking. And I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know what’s going to happen next,’” she said.

The damaged engine dropped parts all over suburbs in Colorado before the plane safely landed...
The damaged engine dropped parts all over suburbs in Colorado before the plane safely landed back at the airport.(Barbara Underwood)

The O-ring she described landed in the yard of a Broomfield residence, just feet away from causing significant damage to a home and vehicles.

As the pilots quickly called in a mayday to air traffic control, Underwood said half of the passengers on the plane weren’t even aware something was wrong.

“I was on the window on the right side, and nobody saw it except the people that were on the window and nobody screamed. And like I looked over and people were still reading their books. They kind of didn’t know what was going on,” she said.

She described heavy vibrations that eventually set in and rattled the plane.

“I turned my texting back on and said my final goodbyes to our children. Now we didn’t know what was going to happen. It was pretty terrifying,” she said.

Shortly after, the pilots announced they were turning the plane around to land back at Denver International Airport. Despite the fear of the overall experience, Underwood noted the overwhelming sense of calm that most passengers and crew had.

“The pilot came on and he was super calm and said we’re just going to do a normal landing. Not any emergency. He really calmed everybody,” Underwood said. “It was, it was pretty scary, but we all held it together. Everybody on the window, nobody screamed — there was no screaming or none of that.”

Underwood and other passengers were rebooked on other flights to Hawaii in the hours that followed. She commended United for their handling of the entire incident.

The NTSB has since launched an investigation into the engine failure.

[Read a related report: Debris falls from plane during emergency landing near Denver]

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