Police in Utah have detailed a fatal event during which an individual accessed the apron at Salt Lake City airport and was found inside an operating aircraft engine.

The incident occurred late on 1 January.

“We just had an aircraft depart 34L, they’re off the departure end, but on their take-off roll they said there was a man running down 34L,” a controller informed ground operations personnel shortly after 22:00.

Salt Lake City’s police department states that the man was a ticketed passenger who held a boarding pass to fly to Denver.

The department says a “disturbance” in the secured side of the terminal – the nature of which has yet to be disclosed – had previously been reported to the airport control centre at 21:52.

But when police officers responded, they were told that the man had exited through an emergency door, and they realised he was outside on the ramp. Search efforts took place over the next few minutes, without success, and tower controllers were contacted after officers received information that a pilot had seen the man.

Personal items, including clothing and shoes, were located on one of the runways at 22:06 and officers were then told the man was located at a de-icing pad.

Delta A220 incident N108DQ-c-Adam Moreira Creative Commons

Source: Adam Moreira/Creative Commons

Police searches for the man centred on a Delta A220 which had undergone de-icing

At the time a Delta Air Lines Airbus A220, operating flight DL2348 to San Francisco, was stationed at a de-icing pad close to the 34L threshold. The crew contacted ground control to state that de-icing was complete and the jet was ready to taxi.

“Just standby for a second, I’m not talking to all the vehicles that are moving around there – I’ll get you moving here shortly,” the ground controller replied, according to communications archived by LiveATC.

The crew was subsequently granted taxi clearance for runway 34R, via taxiways A, E and H, but then told the controller that they had sighted a person on foot nearby, adding: “It might be the guy you’re looking for.”

Ground control responded by telling the crew to hold position, because “a lot of vehicles” were heading for its location.

Dispatchers informed police officers that the man was underneath an aircraft, and had accessed the engine, and officers requested that controllers notify the pilot to shut the engines down.

“Officers arrived and found the man unconscious partially inside a wing-mounted engine of an occupied commercial aircraft on the de-icing pad,” the police department states. “The aircraft’s engines were rotating. The specific stage of engine operation remains under investigation.”

The man was pulled from the engine intake cowl but medical life-saving efforts were unsuccessful.

“Officers will work with the medical examiner’s office to confirm the cause and manner of death, which may include a toxicology report,” the police department adds. The A220 flight was cancelled and the jet transferred to a Delta facility at the airport.