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The BBC's Vanessa Edwards
"Families were left to stare in astonishment"
 real 56k

Monday, 28 August, 2000, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
Jumbo engine part falls on beach
Police officers inspecting an engine part which fell from a KLM Royal Dutch 747
This engine part landed metres from a beach-goer
A Boeing 747 carrying 449 people made an emergency landing at Los Angeles on Sunday after losing several pieces of an engine shortly after take-off.

One of the parts dropped by the KLM airliner was an exhaust nozzle the size of a dishwasher, which fell onto a crowded beach near the airport, narrowly missing people there.

There was a big blast of orange fire coming out of the back

"It landed about 20 feet (six metres) from someone. We were very lucky. If it had hit someone, I have no doubt they would not have survived," said KLM spokesman Hugo Baas.

The authorities have discarded an initial theory that the plane - Flight 602 bound for Amsterdam - had hit a large bird.

A piece of the plane which fell from a KLM Royal Dutch 747 is surrounded by police tape
KLM: the plane could fly 'safely' with just three or even two engines
Richard Parker, an official of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that inspectors had seen no signs of feathers or animal parts in the engine.

"There could be a number of other things, such as maybe a panel coming loose or metal fatigue or something else," he said.

But General Electric, the company which made the engine, said it was still considering the possibility that a foreign object had been sucked into it.

Pilot alerted

Air traffic controllers saw the objects falling and warned the pilot who shut down the damaged engine, dumped large quantities of fuel in the ocean and prepared to make an emergency landing.

A KLM spokesman, Hugo Baas, said that the plane was safe to fly with three or even two engines of its four engines.

But the passengers, many of them badly shaken, applauded when the aircraft finally landed safely back at Los Angeles.

Two pedestrians who were walking their dogs near the airport when the plane took off said that its engine appeared to backfire three times, shooting out orange flames.

"On the third one, two huge chunks of metal blew right off the back of the engine," said Charles Paquette. "There was a big blast of orange fire coming out of the back. It was pretty scary," he said

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See also:

25 Aug 00 | Middle East
Investigators seek clues to crash
24 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong air miss investigated
24 Aug 00 | Americas
Design fault blamed for TWA crash
18 Aug 00 | Europe
Group tries to save Concorde
07 Jun 00 | Business
British Airways confirms KLM talks
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