SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz had some trouble getting to Memphis for their scheduled game on Wednesday. But after hours of waiting, they finally left the Salt Lake Valley.
Minutes after the Jazz charter flight took off on Tuesday afternoon, the plane struck a flock of birds, a Salt Lake International Airport spokesman said. The bird strike caused an engine fire and failure, the team said, and forced the plane to turn around for an emergency landing.
KSL's Chopper 5 showed images of the plane following the emergency landing with fire crews escorting the Delta Boeing 757 down the tarmac with the damage to the left engine was clearly visible. The fire crews were there as a precaution.
Yikes!— Morgan Wolfe (@MorganWolfeKSL) March 30, 2021
Look at the damage to the plane carrying the Jazz. So happy they landed safely! pic.twitter.com/fpjiSBY1nT
A Utah Jazz spokesman confirmed all passengers on board were safe.
Based on data from Flightradar24, the plane took off at 1:10 p.m., leveled off at about 8,200 feet and headed south across the valley. It then turned around to land back at the airport.
"The end result of all of this is the same regardless of what it was," Delta spokesman Anthony Black said. "The aircraft landed without an incident. It taxied back to its original location, and we will work to get another aircraft in there to get them to their ultimate destination."
Bird strikes are relatively common. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, this is the sixth time this month a plane has struck a bird while leaving the Salt Lake International Airport, and the third time that it's been a plane with a larger Class-D engine.
🙏🏾— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) March 30, 2021
Multiple Jazz players reacted on social media with praying hand emojis after the flight landed safely. The team was "a little rattled," according to a source, following the incident, but plans were made to take another flight to the game later in the evening.
When that flight did take off sometime after 7:30 p.m., however, a key player was not on board
Donovan Mitchell did not make the trip to Memphis on the second flight. He will not be with the team and will miss the game due to personal reasons. No further information on why Mitchell is missing the trip was given, but he has acknowledged in the past he has a fear of flying.
He has averaged 29.2 points and 5.9 assists in the 10 games since returning from the All-Star break.
Contributing: Alex Cabrero, KSL-TV