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United engine failure: ‘Big boom,’ and ‘balls of fire’

February 22, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota family that was aboard a United Airlines flight forced to make an emergency landing described debris, sparks and “balls of fire” outside their windows as an engine failed.

Brenda Dohn of Wishek was aboard the Boeing 777-200 with her husband and three kids, headed from Denver to Honolulu, on Saturday when the plane’s right engine failed.

Dohn told KX News that what began as a smooth takeoff quickly turned into turbulence in the clouds. Dohn said she felt “a big boom, not something small” and immediately knew that something had happened.


“Immediately I did scream. I will admit, I did scream,” Dohn told the station. “There were a couple of other people that yelped and kinda screamed. You know, it’s that initial terror, that initial fright, where you’re hearing people say, ‘What’s happening? Why me? This is not the way I wanted this to end,’” she shared.

“You know, all those things, and so my daughter, I realized she was scared and she said, ‘Mom, don’t scream’, and she grabbed on me and I just said, ‘It’s going to be okay.’”

Dohn said the flight crew kept people calm with continuous communication through the roughly four minutes it took for the plane to return to land at Denver International Airport. No one was hurt, and the Dohn family eventually went onward to their vacation in Hawaii.

Boeing has recommended that airlines ground all 777s with the type of engine that blew apart after takeoff from Denver this weekend, and most carriers that fly those planes said they would temporarily pull them from service.