In the minutes after the Utah Jazz’s charter plane was struck by a flock of birds, guards Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson revealed that players were so concerned that they starting sending messages to loved ones.
The team had been heading to its next game against the Memphis Grizzlies when Tuesday’s incident forced the plane to turn back for Salt Lake City Airport and make an emergency landing.
“For a good 10 or 15 minutes, I think all of us on that flight were questioning if we were going to be here today,” Conley told reporters after the Jazz’s impressive 111-107 victory over the Grizzlies. “That’s how serious it was for us. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know that guys were trying to text family just in case, you know? It was that kind of situation.”
Clarkson added: “It was one of those flights where you were sending out texts. I know you’ve seen on a movie when a plane is about to crash. It got to that point where we were all on the plane like, ‘This might be really the end.’ I mean, it was a crazy situation.”
Conley, who guided the Jazz to victory with a 13-point fourth quarter surge in the absence of star guard Donovan Mitchell, recalled sitting alongside Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Miye Oni and Derrick Favors when “all of a sudden it felt like an explosion.”
“The plane immediately started to bounce and just started tilting to the left,” he said. “People in the back of the plane said they saw flames. We started looking down and wondering what just happened. Nobody knows. Everybody’s just quiet. We were just in shock.
“It took the pilots probably five to 10 minutes, probably about 10 minutes, to go through everything, go through their checks and get back to us and let us know what was going on. Because it was obvious that something was really wrong with the plane. It felt like the plane was breaking apart in midair. For five or 10 minutes, it felt like complete helplessness.
“We’re thankful it wasn’t as serious as it could have been, but it was scary.”
The incident made Wednesday’s victory over Memphis all the more impressive, stretching Utah’s winning streak to seven games and solidifying its place atop the Western Conference.