Airplane catches fire at Miami International Airport

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The fiery landing of Flight 203

Several people were injured after a RED Air jetliner caught fire at Miami International Airport on Tuesday after its landing gear malfunctioned.

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A passenger plane from a new Dominican Republic low-cost airline crashed Tuesday night at Miami International Airport, catching fire and injuring three of the 126 people on board.

Firefighters extinguished swollen flames that engulfed RED Air Flight 203 after a landing gear malfunction. The aircraft skidded on the runway and came to rest on a grassy area. The damaged aircraft remained in the runway area Wednesday morning, surrounded by emergency vehicles.

On Tuesday evening, passengers walked away from the plane, some holding their children, some rolling their hand luggage, others taking video on their mobile phones.

“When our firefighters arrived, they saw the wing of the plane was on fire. They quickly began working to put out the fire using specialized foam trucks,” the Miami-based spokeswoman said. Dade Fire-Rescue, Erika Benitez “All the passengers got off the plane.”

All three injured people were taken to hospital, Benitez said, as fire crews worked to “mitigate” a fuel spill on the leak.

Passenger Mauricio Davis, from Weston, said when people saw the fire they started screaming and panicking.

“People were very scared,” said Davis, who was returning from Venezuela and had taken the connecting flight to Santo Domingo. “People were clinging to the seats so as not to turn over.”

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Graciela Silva, right, who was on the Red Air flight that caught fire, reunites with her daughter, Jasmine Rincon, after getting off the plane Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at Miami International Airport. Alie Skowronski [email protected]

The plane “scraped” the southern runway closest to Perimeter Road, closest to the Dolphin Highway, according to airport spokesman Gregory Chin. The forced landing led authorities to close two runways, delaying several flights. But the busiest section of the airport — the north end, where American Airlines handles 70% of air traffic — was unaffected, he said.

There were no other RED Air flights scheduled for Tuesday, Chin said.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 arrived from the Dominican Republic, the home port of RED Air, a carrier founded last year – the country’s fourth – with hopes of expanding across Latin America. CEO Héctor Gómez told trade publication Aviacioneline in December 2021 that the airline plans to serve seven destinations in five countries by the end of 2022.

The airline recently announced that starting in July it will offer more than 20 weekly flights between the United States and the island nation. According to Aviacioneline, the carrier is also licensed to operate flights to Tampa, Costa Rica, Medellín and Cartagena in Colombia, and Panama and Caracas, Venezuela.

But for now, the new Dominican airline has only a few planes and more than 50 employees, and currently only operates routes between Santo Domingo and Miami.

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Fire units seen next to a Red Air plane which caught fire after the landing gear “collapsed” on the runway. The flight came from Las Américas International Airport in the Dominican Republic. on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Pedro Portal [email protected]

The exact cause of the malfunction remained unclear. It was unclear whether RED Air had released any statements about the accident on Tuesday evening – its Twitter page, which has just over 300 followers, had not tweeted since Sunday.

But a company representative allowed a RED Air mechanic, identified as Hector Dejesus, 36, to be interviewed by a reporter. Dejesus said regular maintenance is carried out on the company’s three planes, particularly on the landing gear.

The mechanic, a former Dominican military aviation mechanic, suggested the possibility of pilot error. The Federal Aviation Administration said it would investigate the accident.

“I guess it was a hard landing. We do maintenance all the time. I guess that was it,” Dejesus said, adding, “I’m in shock. I would see stuff like that in the Air Force.

The flight departed from Las Américas International Airport, the country’s main airport.

Aviacioneline said RED Air is backed by Dominican investors and the owners of LASER Airlines, a Venezuelan carrier.

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“When our fire crews arrived, they saw the wing of the plane was on fire,” a Miami-Dade firefighter said. Pedro Portal [email protected]

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Fire units are shutting down RED Air Flight 203 after it suffered a landing gear malfunction, skidded on the runway and came to rest on a grassy area on Tuesday. The flight was from the Dominican Republic. Pedro Portal [email protected]

Miami Herald writer Anna Jean Kaiser also contributed to this report.

This story was originally published June 21, 2022 7:06 p.m.

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Omar is a bilingual, bicultural journalist, covering breaking South Florida news for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in education from the Universidad de Puerto Rico en Río Piedras.