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Allegiant Air flight hits geese, makes emergency landing at Chicago Rockford International Airport

ROCKFORD – An Allegiant Air flight carrying 177 passengers and six crew members made an emergency landing just before 5:30 p.m. today at Chicago Rockford International Airport after hitting a flock of geese.

Allegiant Air spokeswoman Hilarie Grey said the Airbus 320 left Rockford at 4:50 p.m., and “shortly after departure from Rockford … there was a bird strike to the No. 1 engine.”

She said the captain shut down that engine and ordered the flight, which was bound for Punta Gorda, Florida, to return to the airport. It landed safely at about 5:25 p.m. No one reported being injured, Grey said.

While some passengers said there was a fire in the damaged engine, Grey said that isn’t true.

“There was no evidence of fire. There was not a fire to the engine,” she said.

Airport Executive Director Mike Dunn said the bird strike occurred about 20 miles south of the airport. Hitting the birds “did some severe damage, so the pilot declared emergency and turned around,” Dunn said.

The Rockford Fire Department and other area fire crews were called to the scene as a precaution. Rockford’s department was dismissed around 6 p.m., Chief Derek Bergsten said.

Caledonia resident Joe Contarino, owner of ContryHomes Group of Rockford, was on the flight, and said the plane had only been in the air for about 20 to 30 minutes when something went wrong.

“We get up in the air and suddenly we heard a big loud bang and then the frame started vibrating,” he said. “We didn’t know what happened.”

Some passengers began screaming, saying one of the engines was on fire, he said.

“It was very concerning. And then it started making more noise and that was very concerning,” said Contarino, who also works as a real estate agent for Key Realty. “I thought, ‘OK, one engine down.’ ”

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