Boeing 787 Engine Fragments Fall From the Sky 'Like Bullets' Hitting Houses and Cars: 'It Could Have Been Much Worse'

Residents of a town near Rome had a near-miss when debris fell from a plane that encountered technical difficulties shortly after takeoff.

The Norwegian Air Boeing 787 was flying from Rome to Los Angeles on Saturday when it ran into problems less than half an hour after its departure.

People living in the town of Isola Sacra told the Corriere Della Sera they saw pieces of glowing metal come down from the sky. Many picked up the fragments, which were around three inches long, from the street.

The newspaper reported that if the flight had continued for a few minutes longer, the pieces of "burning debris could have hit the center of town, or the crowded beaches of the Roman coast," adding that it "could have been much worse."

Norwegian Air
A Norwegian Air Shuttle passenger jet (Boeing 787) parked at a gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, New York.Debris fell from one of the airline's planes which had to make an emergency landing in Rome. Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The pilots declared an emergency and managed to return to Fiumicino Airport for a safe landing.

One witness told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero: "They were like bullets. My shirt was on fire."

Another said: "It looked like a strong hailstorm but it was sunny. I went out on the balcony and saw it was a storm of steel and iron. I screamed and ran into the house."

The paper reported that 25 cars and 12 homes were damaged, while one 54-year-old man was hit but not badly hurt. He said he felt "lucky to be alive."

The plane was five and a half years old, and the parts that came off are believed to have come from the left engine, a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, Forbes reported.

A spokeswoman from Italy's civil protection agency told Euronews that no casualties were reported but "the fragments caused damage to cars, houses, roofs and other objects in people's gardens."

Norwegian Air Boeing 787 Aircraft breakdown of 1 engine on takeoff from ROME. Engine Turbine fragments rain down, injuring a few people, cars, etc.
Plane returns to airport safely.

— Asking_for_a_friend (@deepbluemerman) August 12, 2019

Esterino Montino, Fiumincino's mayor, said in a Facebook post his administration had previously complained of the dangers of having planes take off so close to people's homes.

In a statement, the airline said it was cooperating with Italy's national flight safety authorities, adding "the safety of passengers and crew is the top priority for Norwegian."

The airline said that the plane, which had 298 passengers on board, had to go back to Fiumicino Airport "due to indications of a technical failure of one of the engines."

Forbes noted that it was the latest problem for Norwegian Air, which has grounded its fleet of 18 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, following accidents in Ethiopia and Indonesia. This led to the cancellation of its long-haul flights on its winter 2019/20 schedule.

On Monday, a Norwegian Air 787 Dreamliner was damaged after crashing into a fence at London's Gatwick Airport, The Sun reported.