NTSB to take 1 year to determine cause of Dynamic Airways plane fire
Flames never entered cabin, FLL director says
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to take a year to determine the cause of Thursday's fire aboard a Dynamic Airways plane that was getting ready to take off at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, senior aviation accident investigator Timothy J. LeBaron said.
LeBaron said investigators arrived at the airport Friday and will go over maintenance records in the upcoming days, as well speak to crew members, mechanics who worked on the plane and the pilot of another flight who first saw something leaking from the plane.
"It is from tragedies like this particular one that we learn lots of information to make flying safer for the public," LeBaron said.
He said a preliminary report should be ready in the coming weeks, and a more detailed report will be released within six months. LaBaron said the final report and the cause of the fire will be determined by the NTSB at the conclusion of the investigation, which is expected to take about a year.
Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said 21 people, including one child were injured in the incident Thursday and taken to Broward Health Medical Center. He said two others were taken to the hospital from their hotel Friday morning after experiencing symptoms.
A man suffered the most serious injuries after he fell while running away from the burning plane, injuring his head. Two others suffered less serious injuries and the rest suffered minor bumps and bruises, authorities said.
"Many of them were injured just from going down the ramp," Dr. Julie Phillips said. "People piled up and so there is minor injuries, sprains and abrasions and a fracture -- a humerus fracture."
Two people remained at the hospital in stable condition Friday night, Broward Health spokeswoman Amy Erez said.
The fire was reported about 12:45 p.m. Thursday on Dynamic Airways flight 405.
Jachles said firefighters were on the tarmac within 2 minutes while passengers and crew members were evacuating the plane.
FLL Director Kent George said that fire rescue crews knocked down the fire within 4 minutes.
"Operation and safety wise, it couldn't have worked any better," he said.
Chief Bob Palestrant of the BSO headed up the operation, deploying roughly 70 units and more than 180 firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.
"Having a plane fully loaded with fuel, about to take off, (and) to have an engine blow up and burst into flames under the wing that's fully loaded with fuel would have been disastrous," Palestrant said. "We could have lost half the people on that plane."
According to George, the fire was contained to the plane's left wing and No. 1 engine. He said flames never entered the cabin.
Daniela Magro, who was on the plane with her brother, told reporters at the airport that she saw the plane's left wing on fire and people running to get off the plane.
"We didn't have an announcement," she said. "We just saw the fire and people started freaking out, and we just left the airplane."
"People started sprinting to the front of the airplane, and that's it," Magro's brother, David Magro, said. "I turned around and saw flames and that was it."
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the Boeing 767 was taxiing on the runway when a pilot on another plane reported that fluid was leaking from the Dynamic Airways flight. Its left engine then caught fire. The flight was preparing to take off for Caracas, Venezuela.
LeBaron said it's unclear whether fuel was the liquid that was leaking from the plane.
Broward County Aviation Department spokesman Greg Meyer said the airport was closed for about three hours after the fire, and 226 flights were affected, 43 of which were canceled.
He said the airline will fly out passengers at 4:30 p.m. Friday on a Swift Air flight. Other flights to Caracas will be available on Saturday and Sunday, although some passengers may decide not to travel.
Both runways at the airport are now open, although Meyer said a portion of the taxiway where the plane caught fire remains closed because the fire damaged the asphalt.
He said a contractor surveyed the damage Friday and repairs are expected to begin Monday. According to Meyer, the taxiway repairs are not expected to impact airport operations and are expected to be completed by Wednesday.
The plane has since been towed to the western side of the airport, where it is expected to remain until the investigation is completed. All luggage has been removed from the plane.
Dynamic Airways, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, was founded in 2010. The airline apologized to its passengers on its website.
"Our primary focus is to provide support for the passengers who are at the airport and to any passengers who have been medically treated and/or released," Director of Operations Don Dodson said in a statement. "Support received from airport authorities personnel as well as our colleagues from other airlines was tremendous and we would like to use this opportunity to express our gratitude for their help during and after the incident"
Dodson said 90 passengers and 11 crew members were aboard the plane.
According to the Aviation Safety Database, the plane involved in the incident is nearly 30 years old, and Thursday's fire marks its 45th safety incident since 1983.
George said all costs affiliated with the incident will be paid by Dynamic Airways.
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