The near-mishap occurred about an hour into the Lagos-Atlanta flight, when the left engine caught fire. However, the plane landed safely and about 200 passengers were evacuated within 90 seconds.
The Guardian learnt that officials of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) have started investigating the incident.
Delta Airlines also confirmed the incident via its website, saying there was an issue with one of the Airbus 330-200’s two engines. It added that passengers were later lodged in a hotel and would rebook on an alternate Delta aircraft yesterday afternoon.
According to an emergency first responder, the flight, which was initially pushed back at 22:40hrs had air return/emergency landing at 23:16hrs when the pilot in command announced the evacuation of all the passengers on board within 90seconds. This was after contacting the control towers because the left engine of the aircraft was said to have caught fire mid air in-flight.
“Passengers were evacuated via the emergency sliding door within a few seconds of hitting the runway. All airport agencies’ officials on duty were on ground within a few minutes that the alarm was raised. The agencies include Aviation Security (AVSEC), NCAA, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), fire service, Port Health and Aviation Clinic, Quarantine and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).”
The source added that although no death was recorded, there were quite a number of crew and passenger casualties who had been taken to hospitals for medical attention.
The incident also forced the runway to be closed for a while, with the Delta aircraft still on the landing surface for over one hour. Other carriers like KLM, Lufthansa and Air France were delayed until the aircraft was later towed with a push-back truck to the open parking bay close to the Boarding gate E 63.
According to Delta, five customers reported non-critical injuries as a result of the evacuation.