SPOKANE, Wash. – Officials confirmed that a United Airlines flight bound for Denver slid off of a taxiway at the Spokane International Airport on Tuesday morning.
Director of Marketing and Public Affairs for Spokane Airport, Todd Woodward, confirmed the slide in an e-mail.
"At approximately, 6:00 A.M. Pacific Time, a United Airlines 737 aircraft slid-off the southern end of the holding area of Taxiway A.. No injuries have been reported. The Airport is assisting United with off-loading the passengers and getting the aircraft back on the hard surface. This situation is developing."
Spokane International Airport CEO Larry Krauter said they were not anticipating freezing rain Tuesday morning. He said flights that landed minutes before this plane did not have any issues braking. He said the freezing rain came quickly.
"We don't typically close," he said "but our weather forecasts typically work with us so that we're out ahead of those things and it's very accurate," said Krauter.
Krauter said the area where the plane slid had not be treated with de-icer at the time.
Spokane Airport was closed while crews "assure adequate braking conditions have been established." Officials said the airport was able to reopen around 8:40 a.m. There were no injuries.
Krauter also United is bringing in a rescue team to remove the plane on Tuesday afternoon from the taxiway.
Facebook user Mike Kennaugh posted on KREM 2's Facebook page that the plane took "an odd turn" and was bumpy before it hit the snowbank. Other passengers on the plane told KREM 2 News via Facebook that it was "a little bumpy" and they hit an ice patch before hitting the snow bank.
United officials confirmed 166 passengers were on board and seven crew members. Flight operations brought out a ladder to get them off of the rear of the plane shortly after 7:00 a.m.
Passengers described the process of getting off the plane as slow, but said everyone remained calm there was not any panic among the passengers or flight crew.
Officials took passengers off the plane in groups of ten, placed them on a shuttle bus and brought them back to the terminal. When asked why it took almost 90 minutes for the buses to arrive to remove the stuck passengers, Krauter said they mobilized their parking shuttles.
"We asked them to come out on the airfield, but because of the conditions we had to be very careful," he said. "For security reasons, we actually had to go through and make sure we could get those vehicles cleared to go on and get them escorted properly onto the airfield," said Krauter
Krauter said they were being especially cautious given the conditions.United officials said they believe this was a reasonable amount of time to get passengers back in the airport. He said most passengers they spoke with were very understanding of the process.
Another flight has been booked for these passengers to get to Denver and is scheduled to leave around 1:47 p.m., officials with United said.
Krauter said he was unsure exactly how many flights were delayed or cancelled as a result of the slide-off. He said the airline will be reviewing the steps they took Tuesday to see if they should change the procedure in the future.
KREM 2 Meteorologist Katie Boer posted a video that shows freezing rain landing directly over the Airport.