21 Hospitalized in Fort Lauderdale Airport Plane Fire

Both runways have reopened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a plane bound for Caracas, Venezuela, caught fire Thursday afternoon, sending 21 people to the hospital, authorities said.

Airport officials said the aircraft has been removed from the site and relocated to the western portion of the airport. The north runway reopened around 7:45 p.m.

A spokesperson for Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue said one of the victims suffered serious injuries after he tripped and fell, hitting his head as he ran from the plane. He was listed in serious but stable condition.

Of the 21 people injured, 19 have since been released from Broward Health Medical Center. Two were admitted and will be held overnight.

"We have admitted two patients to the floor who will be staying overnight, one in ICU and one in another level of care," said Colleen McCrory with Broward Health.

A total of 101 passengers were on board the plane and evacuated by sliding onto the runway, officials said.

"Many of them were injured just from going down the ramp, people kind of piled up so there were minor injuries, sprains and abrasions," said Dr. Julie Phillips, emergency room physician.

"The fire was extinguished very quickly; the plane was evacuated," Mike Jachles with Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue said. [[338381602, L]]

Authorities said the pilot of Dynamic Airways flight 405 reported an engine fire around 12:30 p.m. ET while the Boeing 767 was taxiing for departure the airport's north runway.

"I was actually like reading on my iPad. I heard like a bump, and I heard people screaming, running to the front," passenger David Magro said. "I turn around and look in the window and it's like flames all over the turbine of the plane."

An aircraft traveling behind it reported fuel was leaking from the plane before the fire started, according to Federal Aviation Administration. Smoke was billowing from the plane before firefighters doused it with foam.

"I heard a loud bang, turned around, saw the lights, saw flames," said Andres Gallego, who was in seat 12A. "He opened the door, let the chute out, the chute opened to the side where the flames were."

All flights in and out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were suspended, according to Broward County Aviation Department spokesperson Greg Meyer. The incident led to 43 canceled flights and another 226 delays, officials said. The delays were not expected to spill over into Friday.

Meyer said the Broward County Aviation Department is working with the airport to reunite the passengers with their belongings left behind during the aircraft evacuation.

Passengers were originally sent to Terminal 1, but were soon put onto "co-buses" and sent to the Family Assistance Area in Terminal 4, which Meyer said is a secure area blocked off to the public. An emergency contact line for passengers and their relatives has been set up at 888-283-2157. [[238427591, C]]

"This could have been very bad, it's bad enough that we have have an aircraft that catches fire," Meyer said. "But everything worked as planned as far as our training and what's supposed to happen. So we have what we think is a good ending here under the circumstances."

Meyer said on Friday they have a contractor coming to the airport to inspect any damage to the taxiway and schedule repairs.

Airport officials said aircraft around the country headed for Fort Lauderdale were halted or diverted. West Palm Beach and Miami airports handled most of the traffic, but some passengers found out they'd be staying in South Florida overnight.

"Shoot, it's disappointing because you want to go home. You're ready to go home after a business trip and we're here another night," said Paula Enrico, who was traveling to Idaho.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it will send four investigators to Fort Lauderdale to investigate the fire. Boeing will offer "technical assistance," the airline tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Dynamic Airways is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina, and began operating flights from Fort Lauderdale to Caracas in July.

Passengers expressed frustration over what they said was a lack of information from the airline.

"The airline has been terrible, we're being held in a room and we still have no word of anything what's going on," Gallegos said.

Don Dodson, Director of Operations at Dynamic International, released the following statement regarding the incident:

On behalf of Dynamic International Airways, I want to express my sincere Concern to the friends and families of the passengers on board Flight DYA405. 

DYA405 consisted of 88 Adults and 2 children. The crew compliment was 11. The experience of the Captain and F/O were 15700 and 4140 hours respectively. The actions of the cabin safety trained cabin crew were exemplary. The recovery flight for flight 405 and return 406 is scheduled for this evening departing FLL at 2000.

Our primary focus right now is to provide support for the passengers who are in the airport and for those who are being medically treated.

We are also in the process of dispatching a team to assist the National Transportation Safety Board in its investigation. We will not speculate on the cause of the accident and are committed to fully cooperating with the NTSB and other authorities.

We have activated our Family Assistance Plan and have established a special toll-free number. Family members of passengers who may have been on board Flight DYA405 may contact 1 (888) 283-2157 or 262-226-8787 for more information.

Dynamic International Airways has a lead delegate Joseph Schoofs to liaise with passengers, additional executive management will be onsite by 2000 this evening.

We will provide additional updates via our website: www.airdynamic.com

Don Dodson
Director of Operations

Stay with NBC 6 for updates on this developing story. [[338371622, C]]

NBC's Ari Mason contributed to this report.

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