Utah Jazz Players Recount Terrifying Plane Incident: ‘This Might Be Over For Us’

Apr 1, 2021, 10:25 AM | Updated: 10:30 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Jazz players recounted the horrifying plane incident in which the team’s charter hit a flock of birds during a flight to Memphis.

The team’s plane hit a flock of birds shortly after departing the Salt Lake International Airport on Tuesday, forcing the plane to return to Salt Lake to make an emergency landing. Less than seven hours later, the team was back on a flight, without Donovan Mitchell who still rattled from the earlier issues, and headed towards Memphis.

The Jazz overcame the Grizzlies with a 111-107 victory, but more importantly, the team escaped physically unscathed after a harrowing 36 hours.

Jazz Detail Terrifying Plane Trip

Much of the discussion with Jazz players and coaches during pregame and postgame interviews was focused on the Jazz ill-fated first attempt to travel to Memphis.

From the first-hand accounts, the ordeal was far more terrifying than the photo and video evidence had implied.

“For good 10 to 15 minutes, I think all of us on that flight were questioning if we were really going to be here today,” Conley said. “So that’s how serious it was for us.”

According to Conley, as the plane was making its ascent, there was a loud boom in one of the plane’s engines indicating something had gone seriously wrong.

“All of a sudden it felt like there was an explosion. Literally, that’s what it sounded like for most people,” Conley said.

“We started to bounce then just started tilting to the left. People on the back of the plane said they saw flames.”

Though the flight lasted only 16 minutes according to radar trackers, there were moments when the Jazz players weren’t sure they were going to make it off the plane alive.

“At least 30 seconds in that flight, everybody came to a point where it was like, ‘Man, this might be over for us,’” Clarkson said. “You know, it’s sad to say that.”

Players aboard the plane were texting loved ones in case the plane was unable to land safely, pushing the team to reflect on the most important aspects of their lives.

“In the moment, and really, in hindsight, you have a gratitude and appreciation for the many people and relationships that we all have in our lives,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I feel fortunate that those are things that I think we say and we mean, but in those times you truly feel.”

Ultimately, the plane landed safely, and the Jazz were able to reboard a flight headed to Memphis late Tuesday evening, but not before a truly frightening few minutes.

“We’re just thrilled and thankful for pilots and staff and when they were able to do to get us back home safely,” Conley said. “I think a lot of us were shook up.”

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