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'We Figured The Plane Crashed': Coloradan Counts Blessings After United Flight 328 Engine Explodes Overhead

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) - Some say they feel blessed to be alive after a Boeing 777 engine exploded above their Broomfield neighborhoods sending debris of all sizes and shapes plummeting below. While most debris was insulation from United Airlines flight 328, some large pieces like an engine cowling smashed into property, crushing portions of vehicles and homes.

Plane Engine Failure
BROOMFIELD, CO - FEBRUARY 20: A large piece of an airplane engine in the front yard of Kirby Klements on Elmwood St. near E. 13th Ave February 20, 2021. A United 777 airplane had an engine fail above and scattered parts over the entire nearby neighborhood and Broomfield Commons Park. (Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)"n"n

Witnesses told CBS4 they knew something bad was happening when a loud sound echoed from the sky, followed by the sound of metal objects raining from above.

"I heard a really loud pop," Elizabeth, a witness, said. "I thought, 'This plane should not be flying this low.'"

Kirby Klements and his wife were sitting in their home reading the newspapers and finishing lunch when the explosion happened above.

"We hear this big bang, and we just kind of looked at each other, and next we heard another big bang, and we looked out our front window right as the engine cowl rolled into the tree," Klements told CBS4's Dillon Thomas. "I knew right away that was the front end of an engine."

The front piece of the engine had fallen from the sky intact. The large metal ring crashed into Klements' truck, destroying his vehicle.

Debris In Broomfield From United Plane
(credit: CBS)

"There's not much left of the cabin of my truck," Klements said.

He said he assumed the worst for the flight from Denver to Hawaii.

"I came outside, and it was raining all these pieces of honeycomb insulation down," Klements said. "We figured the plane had crashed."

Those walking near, and around, Commons Park ran for shelter as debris fell from above. Video from witnesses showed everything from insulation slowly drifting to the ground to heavy metal pipes crashed in to the cement.

One home's roof was punctured after a part of the aircraft fell from the sky.

Miraculously nobody was injured on the ground or in the aircraft.

"At any given moment, a part from the plane could have fallen on me," Elizabeth said.

Law enforcement taped off a significantly large scene as debris peppered the community. The aircraft flew more than 21 miles back to Denver International Airport following the explosion, meaning portions of the engine could be scattered across the entire Denver metro area.

Boeing 777 Drops Debris Onto Denver Neighborhood After Engine Explosion
BROOMFIELD, CO - FEBRUARY 20: Pieces of an airplane engine from Flight 328 sit scattered in a neighborhood on February 20, 2021 in Broomfield, Colorado. An engine on the Boeing 777 exploded after takeoff from Denver prompting the flight to return to Denver International Airport where it landed safely. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The NTSB took over the investigation. Klements counts his blessings.

"Ten feet more, it would have landed right on top of my wife and I," Klements said. "I'm really thankful that nobody got hurt."

The flight crew on the United aircraft were applauded as heroes for safely landing the plane.

For those who sustained damage from this incident, they are asked to fill out this form on United Airlines website.

Claimants are asked to: 

  • Select "Concern"
  • Select "Personal Injury"
  • Enter flight details (United #328)
  • Include incident details
  • Include additional documentation/pictures/descriptions
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