Utah Jazz feared ‘this might be the end’ after plane engine caught fire
The Utah Jazz have spoken of the fear they experienced when a bird strike on their plane caused an engine fire and forced an emergency landing.
The incident happened on Tuesday as the team were heading for a road game against the Memphis Grizzlies, which was played on Wednesday night.
“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,” point guard Mike Conley said after Wednesday’s game, which the Jazz won. “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.”
Conley said he felt something like an explosion when the plane hit the flock of birds and started to lose altitude. Some players and staff saw flames.
“Everybody’s just quiet,” said Conley. “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.”
Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson praised the calm of the pilots during the incident, and said the team would support each other in the coming days.
“It’s definitely something, an experience, that we’re happy to be able to tell,” Clarkson said. “A lot of us really came to a point … at least 30 seconds in that flight, everybody came to the point where it was like, ‘Man, it might be over for us.’ It’s sad to say that. I don’t play with death or anything like that.
“It’s just something that we’ve got to push through and come together and keep going, stay strong, support each other. How much time we’ve got to take off, or talking to our mental health people or whatever it is, that’s a serious situation if you’ve never been faced with life and death.”
One player who may be particularly affected is two-time All Star Donovan Mitchell, who had spoken of his fear of flying even before Tuesday. He did not travel to Wednesday’s game due to “personal reasons”. Utah coach Quin Snyder did not answer a question about whether Mitchell’s availability for future road games would be affected.
“It got to that point where we were all on the plane like, ‘This might be really the end,’” Clarkson said. “I mean, it was a crazy situation. I understand fully why Don didn’t come.”
Utah’s win on Wednesday was their seventh in succession and they sit atop the Western Conference with the best record in the entire NBA.