UPDATED 7:15 PM PT – Sunday, February 21, 2021
Authorities continued to investigate the United Airlines engine failure and emergency landing that scattered pieces of debris across Colorado. On Saturday, a Boeing 777 left the Denver International Airport and headed towards Hawaii, but was forced to turn around due to engine failure.
According to the FAA, the right engine caught on fire shortly after takeoff, which caused debris to disperse over northern Colorado.
“They said they heard a loud explosion and that debris was being dropped across Broomfield,” Broomfield PD Public Information Officer Rachel Welte said. “There were three main areas where the debris was dropped: Commons Park, which is behind me. There is a massive debris field behind me and then also the Red Leaf neighborhood, which isn’t far from here and Northmoor, which is here to my left.”
The pilot immediately connected with the control tower and turned the plane around. It landed safely back at the Denver airport. One witness said a large part of the plane fell right in front of his house as he watched debris float through the air.
“My first thought was that the plane had gone down,” witness Kirby Klements stated. “So I stepped outside and looked up and there were pieces of this honeycomb soundproof insulation that goes around the engine that was just floating through the air like ash from a volcano. It probably floated down for a good three or four minutes before it all landed. That stuff is scattered all over the neighborhood.”
Another homeowner said he was two feet away from the impact area before debris crashed down through the roof of his home. 231 passengers and 10 crew members were on board the flight, but no injuries were reported.
Officials worked to locate all of the debris and the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigated the incident.