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Crime and Courts

Two passengers sue United Airlines for flight cut short by dramatic engine explosion over Denver

Joseph McGinley and Jonathan Strawn claim the Feb. 20 flight from Denver to Hawaii induced “significant trauma”

This photo provided by The National Transportation Safety Board shows the damaged engine of United Airlines Flight 328. Federal safety officials are updating their investigation into the engine failure on the United Airlines plane that sent parts of the engine housing raining down on Denver-area neighborhoods last month. The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday, March 5, 2021 that a microscopic exam confirmed that a fan blade that snapped off had telltale signs of fatigue — tiny cracks caused by wear and tear. (The National Transportation Safety Board)
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Two passengers on a flight from Denver cut short after the plane’s engine exploded over the Denver area filed lawsuits Friday against United Airlines claiming each “suffered, and continues to suffer, personal, emotional, and pecuniary injuries.”

Passengers Joseph McGinley and Jonathan Strawn, who were on their way home to Hawaii on Feb. 20, claim in the legal actions filed in Cook County Court in Illinois that United Airlines Flight 328 left them experiencing significant trauma. The lawsuits against United, based in Chicago, seek a minimum of $50,000 each.

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Four minutes after takeoff, an explosion left the right engine of the Boeing 777-200 in flames. The pilots were forced to turn the 231 person flight back to Denver International Airport for an emergency landing after 24 minutes in the air. 

Engine debris fell to the ground below, nearly crashing through a home in Broomfield and narrowly missing a half-dozen teams at soccer practice on a nearby field.

“The passengers on this flight thought it was going to be their last,” Robert A. Clifford, an attorney at Clifford Law Offices, which is representing the two men, said in a written statement. 

Clifford Law Offices is a Chicago-based aviation firm whose founder was lead counsel for victims of a 2018 Boeing 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia that killed all 157 on board. 

The lawsuits claim United did not provide a safe aircraft and did not properly maintain and inspect it for the flight.

A spokesperson said United Airlines did not have a comment on the lawsuit.

Debris from a United Airlines flight that made an emergency landing in Denver. (Broomfield Police Department)

The legal actions follow a class-action lawsuit initiated last month by a different law firm representing another passenger, Chad Schnell. Schnell’s lawsuit also alleges United failed to properly inspect and maintain its aircraft.

Boeing 777-200 plans like the one involved in the February incident are built to fly on just one engine. Commercial aviation pilots are trained on how to respond in the event of an engine failure.

A fan-blade failure contributed to the engine fire on Feb. 20. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a press release ordering U.S. airlines to inspect aircraft with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines, the model used on the Boeing 777-200.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported it is investigating other planes with similar engines to determine whether the defect is widespread. The National Transportation Safety Board is also conducting an investigation into the crash.

The incident drew international attention for dramatic images and video which spread across social media.


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