BA jet engine failure uncontained, pieces hit runway: investigators

(Reuters) - The British Airways plane that caught fire upon take-off from Las Vegas this week suffered an uncontained engine failure, with bits of the engine exploding onto the runway, according to initial findings from U.S. investigators.

The engine caught fire as flight BA2276 was about to take off for London. All 157 passengers and 13 crew members escaped down emergency slides, with only a few minor injuries reported, after the pilot aborted the takeoff of the Boeing 777 jet and ordered the evacuation.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said a failure in the plane's GE90 engine was not contained by the engine's casing and that it had found several pieces of the high pressure compressor spool on the runway.

If a blade at the front of the engine fails, the casing is designed to retain it. The NTSB's findings therefore suggest that the failure was within the internal part of the engine.

"Initial examination of the left engine revealed multiple breaches of the engine case in the area around the high pressure compressor," the NTSB said in a statement.

A spokesman for GE in Europe was not immediately available to comment on Friday. The company has previously said it is providing assistance to the NTSB.

British Airways said in an emailed statement that it continued to give the NTSB its full support.

"The safety of our customers and crew is always our highest priority," the airline said.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Additional reporting by Sarah Young in London; editing by Susan Thomas)