'I Thought It Was Part of a UFO': Colorado Residents React to Falling Plane Debris

Residents of Broomfield, Colorado, recounted initial impressions to large pieces of machinery that landed in and around their properties Saturday, when a United Airlines plane engine malfunctioned shortly after taking off in Denver.

Mary Ellen Sucato, who told the Denver Post that she has lived in the neighborhood for almost 50 years, was surprised to see an enormous chunk of debris fall from the sky before nearly crashing into the home opposite hers. Sucato said she wondered if the town was bearing witness to extraterrestrial visitors.

"At first, I thought it was part of a UFO," she recalled, according to the Post. Earlier, the 81-year-old reportedly remembered questioning whether "we were under attack" in additional comments to the newspaper.

In reality, the unidentified flying object that Sucato referenced belonged to a Boeing 777 engine, which was originally attached to United Flight 328 as it departed Denver International Airport en route to Honolulu on Saturday afternoon. The engine quickly caught fire and subsequently began showering scraps across Broomfield.

The 20-foot-wide, circular piece that Sucato described fell quite close to her neighbor's front porch, as video footage shows.

UNITED AIRLINES ENGINE FIRE pic.twitter.com/tDyDdEM03j

— FXHedge (@Fxhedgers) February 20, 2021

Sucato's neighbor, Broomfield resident Kirby Klements, thought it might be a trampoline before taking a closer look.

"My wife and I were sitting in the living room, reading the paper when we heard a loud bang," said Klements in a videotaped interview, which saw the Broomfield resident standing in his yard with debris in the background. "[We] kind of looked at each other, trying to figure out what that was. And then, there was a large bang, crashing noise. And this piece behind me fell over in front of our front window."

Kirby Klements of Broomfield describes his Saturday, when debris from a jet landed in his yard. pic.twitter.com/XsQ223Isol

— kieran nicholson (@kierannicholson) February 20, 2021

"So, first I thought it was debris from a trampoline from my neighbor's yard," he continued. "Came out, looked at it and knew right away that it was the front of an engine of an airplane."

The Broomfield Police Department shared images of additional debris that landed elsewhere in the area around 1 p.m. local time.

Getting reports that a plane flying over @broomfield had engine trouble and dropped debris in several neighborhoods around 1:08 pm. No injuries reported at this time. Plane did not land in Broomfield. Media staging area TBD. pic.twitter.com/Oc02vUWFdn

— Broomfield Police (@BroomfieldPD) February 20, 2021

The United flight returned to Denver airport safely, and none of its passengers or crew members sustained injuries. There were no reported injuries due to falling debris either, according to police.

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed the board opened an investigation into the engine malfunction in comments to Newsweek Sunday afternoon. The spokesperson was unable to provide additional information about the inquiry, but said the NTSB would announce details about possible upcoming news briefings on Twitter before they take place.

This story was updated at 4:59 p.m. ET to reflect the NTSB's response to Newsweek's request for updates related to its investigation.

United Airlines, Boeing, Denver, Colorado
Pieces of an airplane engine from United Airlines Flight 328 are enclosed by police tape after landing in Broomfield, Colorado, on February 20, 2021. Michael Ciaglo/Getty