Two passengers still in hospital in Florida as plane fire investigated

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 30, 2015 11:56 AM

MIAMI (Reuters) - Two adult passengers remained hospitalized as National Transportation Safety Board investigators began examining the engine on a Venezuela-bound 767 airplane that burst into flames before takeoff on Thursday at a South Florida airport, officials said.

Twenty-one people were taken to Broward Health Medical Center for evaluation, one in serious condition, as 101 passengers and crew evacuated the Dynamic International Airways Boeing 767-200ER using inflatable emergency slides, hospital spokeswoman Amy Erez said on Friday.

Nineteen people were treated and released, she said, and both of the patients admitted were in stable condition as of Friday.

Timothy Lebaron, head of the NTSB's investigative team, told reporters on Friday that it was too early to tell what caused the fire.

The plane's flight data recorder, or black box, was being sent to Washington, and investigators plan to examine the company's maintenance records, he said.

Asked if the airline had any history of maintenance problems, he said: "Not that I'm aware of."

The Federal Aviation Administration said its records showed no prior accidents or incidents for the aircraft.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport officials on Friday said the fire was knocked out within four minutes before it could reach the cabin. "Operations-wise and safety-wise, it couldn't have worked any better," Kent George, the airport's director of aviation, told reporters.

Between 45 and 50 gallons of fuel leaked onto the taxiway, he said, requiring repairs to the tarmac. Neither of the airport's two runways was damaged.

Television images on Thursday showed the plane surrounded by white foam and firefighters' trucks as thick black smoke engulfed the left wing engine.

The 29-year-old aircraft was leaking fuel before departure, the FAA said, and an alert pilot on a jet taxiing behind it warned the crew about the leak.

Greensboro, North Carolina-based Dynamic flies from the United States to Venezuela and neighboring Guyana, according to its website.

Operations Director Don Dodson said in a statement that the company was cooperating with authorities and would not speculate on the cause of the accident.

(Reporting by David Adams in Miami and Letitia Stein in Tampa; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)