Passenger describes flight's botched takeoff

Posted: March 14, 2014

TEN SECONDS felt like an eternity to Anthony Bezich.

That tends to happen when the plane you're sitting on is sliding out of control down the runway.

"I was panicking: My concern was, 'Are we gonna crash like a car? Are we gonna slide into the river?' " he said last night in a phone interview from the US Airways passenger lounge at Philadelphia International Airport.

"When we stopped, there was this huge wave of calm; well, relative to having just been in a crash."

The flight that Bezich and his wife were on, US Airways 1702, never left the city last night.

Victoria Lupica, a spokeswoman for the airport, said the plane blew a tire about 6:30 p.m. as it was preparing to take off for Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The nose of the plane collapsed after the tire blew, and the plane skidded to a halt on the runway.

Bezich added that the plane was actually airborne for a few seconds, but then came down immediately amid strong wind gusts in a manner that "was not normal," he said.

Once the Airbus A320 stopped, the pilot gave the evacuation call, and passengers slid down emergency chutes deployed from the plane's front door.

"Everybody helped each other out," said Bezich, whose father, Louis Bezich, is chief of staff at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

"We took care of each other, especially the elderly and infants, and then just waited on the runway to see what would happen next."

Lupica said that no serious injuries from among the flight's 149 passengers were reported by paramedics on the scene, and that departing flights were not being diverted.

Arriving flights, however, were being held back at their origin cities, she said, until the plane could be towed away.

The passengers were shuttled back into the airport, where they waited in the airline's lounge.

Bezich - who was headed to Florida to film a wedding with his wife Colleen for his production company, Be Films - was among those waiting to board a replacement flight.

That departure was delayed by the passenger's bags, still trapped in the downed plane.

"This isn't enough to keep me off a second plane," he said. "The odds are in my favor: What are the chances this will happen to me twice in my life, let alone twice in the same night?

"Everyone here just has the perspective that this could have ended much worse."

Risa Silverman felt that way, too.

As Bezich and fellow passengers stewed in the lounge, she was a few floors down, trying to make arrangements with the airline's ticketing office to go see her daughter, Rachel, who was also on the plane.

"I think things like this happen," said Silverman, of Middlesex County, N.J. "It puts a cramp into everything, but that's minor considering the circumstances.

"As long as she's safe, that's all that matters to us."

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