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15 Hurt In JetBlue Hard Landing

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The tires of a JetBlue airplane caught fire Thursday during a hard landing in Sacramento that left 15 people with minor injuries and sent passengers down emergency slides to escape the aircraft.

Passenger Michelle McDuffie said people onboard felt a thud when the plane touched down at about 12:50 p.m. after a flight from Long Beach, but nobody thought there was an emergency until the crew shouted for everyone to exit on the inflatable slides.

McDuffie saw the burning tires when she was on the ground.

"I thought, Oh I wish I had gotten my bag off. But I was just happy that I wasn't hurt," said McDuffie, 33, of Mission Viejo.

The plane appeared to experience trouble with its brakes, and four tires blew out during the landing, airline spokeswoman Sharon Jones said.

Sacramento Fire Department crews were on scene within four minutes of being dispatched and were escorted to the runway by airport security, according to the department.

Sacramento County Airport System Aircraft Rescue Firefighters extinguished tires of the aircraft that were on fire, while Sacramento firefighters triaged aircraft passengers and crew, according to a Sacramento Fire Department release.

The 87 passengers were taken to the terminal on buses, airport spokeswoman Gina Swankie said.

The nature of the injuries weren't immediately available, but five people were taken to a hospital, she said. An elderly woman was seen being placed onto a stretcher, complaining of neck pains.

Everyone was "able to slide down that slide and walk over to our triage," Sacramento Fire Department Capt. Jonathan Burgess said.

Passenger Shannon Ruppe of Paradise said it wasn't that easy. Most of the injuries she saw were abrasions and sprained ankles caused by the slides, she said.

"They're incredibly fast, and there was no time for the flight attendants to give us any instructions," Ruppe said.

Rob Vanatta, 32, was waiting for the JetBlue flight when someone announced on the terminal intercom that it was delayed.

"Then they came back on the intercom, sounding surprised or in shock, and said 'I'm not sure how to tell you this, but the wheels caught fire upon landing and the emergency slides had been deployed,'" Vanatta said.

He ran to a window and saw passengers standing on the runway near the plane, surrounded by fire trucks.

"My friend and I were able to rebook to a flight out of Oakland, so we're driving there now," he said.

Hours after the incident, the empty plane had yet to be towed from the runway. About a dozen passengers lingered in the terminal, waiting for their luggage or snacking on airport food paid for by JetBlue.

"Everybody's been really nice and taking care of each other," said Ruppe, who was celebrating her birthday. "I just wish that I had worn my tennis shoes."

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the plane had not caused any delays at the airport.

The incident was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

___

Associated Press Writers Juliet Williams in Sacramento, and Trevor Hunnicutt, Marcus Wohlsen and Jason Dearen in San Francisco contributed to this report.



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