Mother and son die when engine shatters on Delta jet


Pilot aborted takeoff

July 6, 1996
Web posted at: 11:59 p.m. EDT

PENSACOLA, Florida (CNN) -- A mother and her 12-year-old son were killed and at least five others injured Saturday when pieces of a jet engine ripped through the cabin of a Delta Air Lines plane, causing the pilot to abort the takeoff.

Flight 1288 was bound for Atlanta when it skidded to a halt after heading down the runway for about 1,500 feet, said Kathleen Bergen, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The McDonnel Douglas MD-88 jet was carrying 142 passengers and five crew members.


Many of the passengers were returning from Fourth of July vacations when the accident occurred at Pensacola Regional Airport. The injured were taken to two hospitals, said Kathy Pope, dispatch supervisor for the medical services team.

The two victims were identified as Anita Saxton and her son, Nolan, of Scottville, Michigan. Both suffered "major trauma," Bruce Yelverton, director of Escambia County Emergency Medical Services, said. There was no immediate information on how they died. He said none of those hurt had life-threatening injuries.

Bill Berry

"From our early investigation, it appears parts from the failing engine penetrated the cabin," Delta Air Lines spokesman Bill Berry said. (207K AIFF or WAV sound)

Mark Sullivan, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney, which manufactured the plane's engines, said the company believes a fan blade in the front of the left engine failed. Broken pieces of the blade probably penetrated the fan case and debris went flying, he said.

"We believe that is what happened. But we have not confirmed it, because we haven't examined the engine," Sullivan said.

Berry said the 8-year-old plane apparently experienced "a major failure" of its main engine, and the pilot abruptly aborted takeoff about 3:20 p.m. EDT. Witnesses said smoke poured from the left engine and there was fire, but it was contained and quickly extinguished (268K AIFF or WAV sound).

Sounded like a blown tire

"You just heard this pop," passenger Ernie Lazos said. "Just at that moment, I turned around and the guy in the back says there's smoke. I guess there was a panic."

passenger quote

He said he and his children left the plane through the emergency door and jumped to the ground.


"At first I thought it was a blown tire until I saw the engine flying off the runway," passenger Jean Paul Menard said. "I seen the smoke and I just wanted to get my family off of there."

His wife, Brenda, said part of the engine burst through the fuselage. "There was part of it that went through to the other side," she said. They were traveling with their 11-month-old child.

About 30 passengers were evacuated using emergency slides; others were able to leave the plane using the stairs.

Three people were taken to Baptist Hospital, where one was in serious condition with a fractured leg. Another was in good condition and a third was being evaluated, said hospital spokeswoman Carol Trivett. Two children were taken to Sacred Heart hospital.

NTSB concerned about MD-88 engines

The MD-88's two engines are located on each side of the rear fuselage. In May, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that certain Pratt & Whitney jet engines be inspected by the FAA for cracks.

The recommendation stemmed from an incident January 30 at LaGuardia International Airport. In that case, an engine on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 727 failed, throwing several parts through the engine covering.

The pilot successfully aborted the plane's takeoff and passengers were evacuated without injury, the NTSB said.

Delta said it was reviewing maintenance records of the airplane as well as its Pratt and Whitney engines. The airline reportedly has about 120 MD-88s in its fleet of more than 500 aircraft. Maintenance records obtained by CNN of the Delta jet involved in Saturday's aborted flight revealed no unusal problems in the eight years it has been flying.

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