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Wheel Falls From Sky in Latest Airliner Mishap

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A nose wheel fell off an American Airlines Boeing 757, plunged onto a South Gate street in front of a market, bounced across a boulevard and came to rest by a church during approach to Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

No one was injured.

The accident occurred as authorities were investigating an earlier incident in which the landing gear of a Delta Air Lines plane failed to retract, forcing the pilot to make a dramatic landing in San Francisco.

In South Gate, the right nose wheel landed about 1:30 p.m. near Albertsons supermarket at Madison Avenue and Firestone Boulevard, said Police Sgt. C.R. Smith.

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It bounced across Firestone, which is 80 feet wide, into the parking lot of St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church.

The Rev. John Provenza said the wheel landed next to a woman who was entering the church to pray.

“Maybe she prayed a little harder,” Provenza said. “By the grace of God, it could have really been bad.”

He said the wheel was traveling so fast it would have destroyed anything it hit.

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Flight 2425 from Dallas-Fort Worth landed safely with 105 passengers and six crew members on board, said John Hotard, a spokesman for American Airlines.

Aviation officials said that because there are two wheels on the front landing gear and because the main gear carries most of the weight on landing, the plane touched down without incident.

The airline, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were attempting to determine why the wheel broke loose.

On Monday night, Flight 1972 was guided into an emergency landing in San Francisco after the pilots discovered the problem with the landing gear. The passenger plane came down hard, its wing sliding down the runway with a shower of sparks.

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The 79 passengers and seven crew members aboard were not injured.

The pilot told the passengers about the landing gear problems soon after takeoff from San Francisco at 6:35 p.m. The plane, bound for Salt Lake City, circled for an hour as airline personnel tried to decide whether they could fix the problem.

As the plane landed, its right wing scraped the runway and crumpled at the end but did not separate from the fuselage. Emergency crews doused the plane with fire extinguishing foam as soon as it came to a stop, said airport spokesman Ron Wilson.

Passengers left the plane using an inflatable slide.

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“You could see that there were sparks coming off the wing’s tip,” passenger Joe Burschinger of Los Angeles told the San Francisco Examiner. “I gotta tell you, I’ve had rougher landings on normal flights.”

Emergency crews were waiting for the flight when it touched down and the airport was temporarily closed.

The worst part of the ordeal, passenger Shari Kendall said, was the wait between the pilot’s announcement there would be an emergency landing and the landing.

“It seemed forever,” she said.

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