Hawaii couple recounts harrowing moments after United flight 328 engine explosion

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — An explosive engine fire forced a plane bound for Honolulu to make an emergency landing back in Denver shortly after takeoff on Saturday, Feb. 20.  

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Kailua residents Ed and Barbara Underwood said, the ordeal was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to them. They even sent a farewell text message to their children because they were not sure they were going to survive. It is every traveler’s worse nightmare and the Underwoods are still in shock.

Courtesy Ed and Barbara Underwood

“Pretty traumatic,” Barbara said as she held her husband’s arm. “I’m  pretty shaky.”

The couple had been visiting their two sons in Colorado and were returning to Hawaii on United Airlines flight 328.

“We had just taken off,” Ed explained. “We hit the 10,000 mark where the chime goes off and about a minute later we heard this loud explosion.”

Courtesy: Chad Schnell via Storyful

Barbara was sitting in the window seat and noticed the engine vibrating.

“And all of a sudden it just blew up,” she said. “There was fire and that whole big ring around the engine flew off. It was a big boom. Thank goodness it didn’t hit the windows.”

The debris landed thousands of feet below and narrowly missed a home in Broomfield, Colorado.

Barbara said, she thought they were going to die.

“You just don’t know what’s going to happen. We didn’t know that we were going to land safely at that point,” she explained. Terrified, she texted her two sons to say goodbye.

“I just said the plane engine blew,  that I don’t know what’s going to happen and that we love them.  That’s all you can say.” She paused to regain her composure.

Courtesy: Lindsay Loock

“It was really scary,” she said as she held back her emotions.

They said, the pilot made an announcement after a few minutes.

“The pilot came on and just very calmly said we’re just going to make a landing, its not an emergency landing, it’s just a normal landing so it was just real calm,” she said. “It was the longest 20 minutes coming back into Denver.”

Firetrucks sprayed foam on the engine to extinguish the fire and passengers were allowed to disembark once the aircraft was back on the ground.

They said, some people on the other side of the plane did not even know what happened.

“Everybody else just heard a pop and didn’t know what was happening, nobody was screaming so their calm made everybody else calm,” Barbara said.

“People knew something was up,” Ed interjected, “Cause the whole plane was shaking the entire trip back to the airport until we landed.”

They said, United already scheduled them another flight.

“I really don’t want to get on another plane but I want to get home,” Barbara said.

The FAA said in a statement:

“A Boeing 777-200 operated by United Airlines returned to Denver International Airport and landed safely Saturday after experiencing a right-engine failure after takeoff. There are reports of debris landing along the planes flight path. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.”

Passengers on United flight 328 were put on United flight 3025 and are tentatively scheduled to arrive in Honolulu around 10:45 p.m. Saturday.

KHON2 reached out to United for comment but has not received a response.

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