The Utah Jazz’s charter flight to Memphis was forced to return to Salt Lake City shortly after takeoff Tuesday afternoon, after a bird struck the plane’s left engine.
A team spokesman confirmed that “the team has returned safely back to SLC” after Delta Flight 8944, originally bound for Memphis for Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies, experienced the left engine problem.
The Boeing 757 took off around 1:10 p.m. per flight data from FlightRadar24, and was headed south over the Salt Lake Valley. However a flock of birds struck the plane, leading to an engine shutdown, according to a Salt Lake City International Airport spokesman.
Photos of the now-grounded plane show severe cracking on the blood-stained nosecone, and paneling torn away from the left engine.
The Jazz left for Memphis on another charter flight later Tuesday evening, but Donovan Mitchell did not accompany the team. The Jazz announced that he would miss the game for “personal reasons.”
It is unclear why Mitchell was not with the team, but in the past he has acknowledged, even in pre-draft interviews, his fear of flying.
Several Jazz players took to Twitter in the wake of the incident:
Eventually, the Jazz secured another plane and finally took off for Memphis — for the second time — around 7:45 p.m. MT.