Ginsburg slides to safety after Dulles plane incident

September 15, 2011 12:46:59 AM PDT
An SFO-bound plane was forced to evacuate in Washington D.C. Among the passengers on that flight was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who at age 78, was forced to slide down an emergency chute along with everyone else.

There were 179 passengers that safely landed at SFO around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday after a very harrowing experience on the tarmac on the East Coast.

When United Flight 586 left the gate at Washington Dulles, several passengers noticed smoke coming out of an engine and notified the pilot.

"An alarm went off and there was an announcement that the plane had to be evacuated," said Michael Hurley, an evacuated passenger.

"Everything just totally shut off and immediately you knew something was wrong and that's when you just heard people screaming," said Richard Delisi, an evacuated passenger. "You don't know whether the plane is on fire and whether or not this is about to become a disaster. There's no way of knowing. All you hear is yelling 'Evacuate! Evacuate!'"

Seated at the back of the plane was Justice Ginsberg and passengers say she was escorted by what appeared to be four U.S. marshals.

"One of the guards went off the slide with her and another guard stayed on the plane and helped passengers off," said Brian Huseman, an evacuated passenger.

And 3-month-old Eloise was asleep in her mother's arms when she went down the emergency slide.

Evacuated passenger Megan Eisenberg explained what it was like holding her infant as she went down the emergency slide. She said, "I went and there was no one at the bottom and you just go so fast and I was so scared... I was so scared, but she did great. She did great. Oh, I fell. I think I just stuck my arm out to catch [the ground] so she wouldn't hit and then everyone that didn't get caught fell. A lot of people have scraped arms,"

Everyone praised the professionalism of the flight crew.

"You know it always takes 40 minutes to load a plane, but it only took two minutes probably, not much longer than that, to get 200 people off the plane," said Hurley.

The jet was surrounded by fire engines. Passengers were taken back to the terminal and boarded another plane four hours later, including the justice who was whisked away from SFO by U.S. marshals.

Some passengers criticized fellow passengers who they say dismayed them because they took time to take purses, and suitcases even, out of overhead bins and took them down the emergency chutes with them. Still, there was a happy ending to this event and everyone landed safely in San Francisco by the end of the day.

Justice Ginsburg came through the incident without injury. She was seen Wednesday night entering the San Francisco Opera House for a performance. She is here for a speaking engagement at Hastings College of Law on Thursday.

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