Witness Describes Chaos, Screams Aboard United Jet On Fire

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An Oakland woman was just settling in for a transcontinental flight back to the Bay Area when her world turned upside down.

Chaos suddenly engulfed Portia Dixon. The plane lights dim. There were screams of “Fire! Fire!”

Dixon was on United flight 1579 — a United Airlines Boeing 757 bound for San Francisco from Newark — that had an engine explode in flames right before take-off.

“We were getting ready for takeoff and the plane just stopped,” Dixon said after arriving in San Francisco early Wednesday. “The stewardess and everyone started screaming — ‘Fire! Fire! You have to evacuate.’ It got really dark. We couldn’t see anything. There was just screaming.”

Dixon hurried along with her fellow passengers to exit using the slides at the rear of the plane.

“I exited the back of the plane,” she said. “When I was jumping off the tarp people were just piling on behind me. The stewardess just said run as fast as you can, as far as you can get away from the plane.”

But Dixon had injured her ankle, making it difficult to escape the chaos.

“The fire trucks and police were there really, really fast — within 90 seconds,” she said.

While she awaited aid, Dixon said her thoughts turned to recent events like the Manchester attack.

“I was just so scared. I didn’t have any idea (what happened),” she said. “I thought it was a terrorist attack.”

Dixon was on the flight, returning from a fun-filled vacation with her girlfriends in Jamaica.

“It was a terrible way to end a great holiday,” she said.

RELATED: Engine Fire Forces Emergency Escape From SFO-Bound United Flight In New Jersey

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said passengers were force to evacuate from the Boeing 757 aircraft at Newark Liberty International Airport after flames were reported coming from the engine on the right side of the aircraft.

In a video posted to Twitter, a passenger aboard the flight said he had to evacuate on the emergency slide, and flight attendants told him to run from the plane.

“During taxiing of United flight 1579 from Newark to San Francisco, the tower notified the crew of what appeared to be flames from one of the engines,” said United spokesman Jonathan Guerin. “The crew immediately deployed the slides and evacuated the aircraft. At this time we have a report of only one minor injury. Customers are being transported back to the terminal. We are working to get our customers to San Francisco as soon as possible.”

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