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NTSB to investigate airplane fire on Las Vegas tarmac that injured 27

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into what caused a British Airways plane to catch fire on takeoff from Las Vegas, sending flames and smoke billowing from the tarmac area and injuring 27.

The agency said on Twitter it was sending three investigators to the scene to begin its inquiry.

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The plane was bound for London and had been cleared for takeoff when its left engine caught fire at 4:14 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and McCarran Airport officials.

The pilots immediately aborted takeoff and evacuated the passengers using emergency slides, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. Airport officials said there were 159 passengers on board; in a statement, British Airways put the count at 157. There were also 13 crew members on board the 275-seat Boeing 777.

"Mayday, Mayday ... we have a fire, I repeat, we are evacuating," the pilot can be heard saying in a hurried back-and-forth with the airport tower, according to audio made public Wednesday on a website that archives air trafic control recordings.

Firefighters were able to put out the flames within minutes, according to the airport.

A total of 27 people were taken to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas and treated for minor injuries, according to Sylvia Song, a hospital spokeswoman. All had been released by Tuesday evening, British Airways said in a statement.

The airline said remaining passengers were taken to hotels.

The runway where the plane caught fire was closed for about eight hours, reopening shortly after midnight Wednesday.

A Boeing spokesman said the company is providing "technical assistance" to the NTSB in its investigation into the fire.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc

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