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Southwest flight makes emergency landing in S.L.; witnesses report seeing flames

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Southwest Airlines flight had to return to the Salt Lake City International Airport shortly after takeoff Monday due to an engine malfunction.

Witnesses on the ground reported hearing an explosion and seeing flames shooting from one of the engines. One person posted video shot from the ground of the plane on YouTube, showing what appears to be flames coming from the engine in the right wing.

"I can’t imagine if the person that was sitting over the wing maybe saw those fireballs shooting out, I can’t imagine what was going through their mind,” said Jerry Schweiss, who saw the plane.

Monday morning, Southwest Flight 604 took off from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles International Airport. Approximately 20 minutes after takeoff, about 7:10 a.m., the pilot turned around.

"The pilots … elected to return to SLC after receiving a cockpit indication of a potential performance issue with one of the aircraft engines," Southwest said in a prepared statement.

In recorded audio between the pilot and the Salt Lake Air Traffic Control Center, the pilot of the Boeing 737 is heard calmly saying, "We have an engine malfunction right now. We’d like to go somewhere and hold.

“We’ll declare an emergency and we’ll climb and maintain 10,000,” he continued.

Neither Southwest nor airport officials could confirm there were flames shooting from an engine, as some witnesses reported.

The plane returned to Salt Lake City and landed without incident. It was not immediately known how many passengers were on board. Southwest said "the customers will be swapped to a new aircraft to continue the flight to LAX. We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers, but safety is always our top priority at Southwest Airlines."

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