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Passengers cry and pray as smoke-filled plane rattles to emergency landing

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
  • Plane engine "blew" airline says; actor tweets engine "exploded"
  • Cabin filled with heavy smoke, passengers tell CNN affiliate
  • Pilot made spot-on landing, according to man on plane
  • All passengers slid down emergency chutes to safety

(CNN) -- Many wept. Some prayed. But after their smoke-filled plane rattled to an emergency landing, passengers had a new lease on life, as they exited a JetBlue flight Thursday via inflatable chutes.

"I'm just happy to be alive," said passenger Jarrod West, who slid down holding his black Chihuahua. "I don't think I'll be mean to anybody ever again."

Four people were injured in the incident; one was taken to hospital, CNN affiliate KCAL reported.

Passenger: I thought I was going to die

A loud pop initiated the brush with disaster, said West and other passengers who spoke with KCAL from the airport in Long Beach, California.

Flight 1416 had left Long Beach Airport about 15 minutes before and was over the ocean, carrying 147 passengers and crew headed for Austin, Texas.

"The flight attendants were yelling 'brace, brace' and they kept repeating it and repeating it on the top of their lungs."
passenger Jarrod West

Then the right engine "blew," JetBlue told KCAL.

A signal alerted pilots that an engine was overheating, fire department spokesman Jake Heflin told KCAL. The pilots deployed extinguishers.

Thick smoke filled cabin

Actor Jackson Rathbone was on the flight with his wife and child. "Our right engine exploded and our cabin filled with smoke," he posted to Twitter.

It grew so thick that passengers could no longer see the people seated next to them, said passenger Jonathon Hubbard.

West realized he would have a hard time breathing soon, but oxygen masks did not drop down, he said.

So, flight attendants went around deploying them by hand.

Fortunately, not far from its departure airport, the plane made a sharp turn back toward it, Rathbone said. The actor is known for his role as Jasper Hale in the "Twilight" movie series and stars in the TV series "Aim High."

Tears as plane rattles

As it cruised back over land, the plane began to quake, and passengers broke into tears, afraid for their lives.

"Everyone was crying," passenger Dean Delbaugh said. "I thought this was it." His wife, seated next to him, clung to him.

Rathbone was also flying with his family.

"I recited the Lord's Prayer as I held my son and my wife in my arms," he posted to social media site whosay.

Then flight attendants prepared the passengers in the event of a hard landing.

"The flight attendants were yelling 'brace, brace' and they kept repeating it and repeating it on the top of their lungs," West said.

Happy to be alive

But the pilot brought the scare to an end by setting the plane, which identified as an Airbus A320, gently onto the runway.

"He put it on the numbers. He did good," West said. "He came by afterwards and said 'hello' to everybody. All of us were hugging him and saying 'thank you.'"

Passenger Jonathan Hubbard was sitting in the exit row and wasted no time.

"I took the exit door and just threw it out the plane and just jumped out," he told KCAL. An inflatable chute was waiting to catch him.

JetBlue spokeswoman Jessica Felipe said everyone evacuated the plane by using emergency slides.

"I grabbed my son and jumped down the inflated ramp, my wife following," Rathbone tweeted. "We left all our personal effects onboard. Who cares. We were alive."

Passengers were led to a room, where they were debriefed, Rathbone said. KCAL reported that those wishing to continue to Austin were put onto a later flight.

There was no statement on the Flight 1416 incident on JetBlue's website. But on the day of the incident, the airline announced CEO Dave Barger would step down, effective in February. The statement did not connect the decision with the mishap.

In August, a JetBlue engine caught fire in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sending passengers and crew down the emergency slides.

Rathbone and his family went home to celebrate their living through Thursday's scare with a wine and champagne tasting, he said on whosay -- they opened a half-dozen bottles.

CNN's Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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