BA plane fire passenger: 'I still get flashbacks'

Credit: Ian Payne

A passengers on board a British Airways plane that caught fire at Las Vegas airport has spoken of his trauma

Steve Bingham, a 35-year-old from Hillsborough, Northern Ireland suffers regular flashbacks and been on medication for psychological trauma since the incident.

He is one of 40 passengers from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland to have hired lawyers to investigate the cause of the blaze.

The Boeing 777-200 caught fire on the 8 September as it prepared to take off for a 10-hour flight from Las Vegas to London.

"The plane accelerated for take-off, then there was a loud bang and jolt followed by an abrupt emergency stop. At that point, I thought the plane was going to tip on its side or crash," he said.

"Many people were screaming, with some then shouting about fire.

"Then I saw thick black smoke from the windows on both sides of the aircraft, but the cabin crew were still telling us to stay seated at this point. Seconds later, the pilot ordered the evacuation."

Credit: Ian Payne

Mr Bingham injured his arm escaping via the emergency inflatable chute. He described the sense of panic on the runway below the burning jet.

"Once out of the plane, the staff were screaming at us to run away. I started to run and looked back towards the plane to see that it was on fire with flames reaching twice the height of the aircraft. All I could think was that if it reaches the fuel tanks and explodes we will be killed," he said.

"I'm still suffering from the incident and have regular flashbacks.

"You simply never expect something like this to happen. I am continuing to suffer from the effects of what happened but I know we are all incredibly lucky not to have been more seriously injured."

The engine of the BA flight was found to have "multiple breaches" in its casing, US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators said. Parts of the engine had also blown out into the runway.

The captain, Chris Henkey, 63, from Reading was on his penultimate flight when he aborted take-off and ordered the evacuation. Twenty-seven passengers and crew were treated for minor injuries.

Captain Henkey was hailed a hero for saving the lives of his passengers.

Clive Garner, head of law firm Irwin Mitchell's aviation department which is representing British and Irish passengers, said: "The primary concern must be ensuring that all of those who have suffered injuries are given the specialist support and advice they need.

"Some of the passengers have suffered physical injuries and from previous experience we know that such a terrifying incident can also cause psychological injuries to those involved. Many passengers also inhaled fumes produced by the fire which may have been toxic.

"The psychological impact of a life threatening event like this should not be underestimated."

Irwin Mitchell is conducting its own investigations into the cause ahead of the final air accident report.