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US basketball team back home after plane engine blowout

February 16, 2015

STARKVILLE, Mississippi (AP) — A college basketball team had to take a bus home to Mississippi after an engine failed on the team plane, forcing an emergency landing in St. Louis.

The Mississippi State men’s basketball team left suburban St. Louis at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and arrived back in Mississippi at 3:30 p.m., team spokesman Gregg Ellis said. Most of the team slept while the sports staff worked, he said.

They stayed in Festus, about an hour’s drive from St. Louis, because Mardi Gras had filled the city’s hotels and bad weather kept a backup plane in Lexington, Kentucky.

“Who knew that St. Louis is the second-biggest Mardi Gras city in the United States?” he said Sunday in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “We couldn’t find enough rooms, even at the airport.”

The mishap occurred after the Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Missouri Tigers 77-74 Saturday in Missouri.

Ellis said he was sitting in front of the right wing when the right engine failed about 20 minutes into the flight that was supposed to get the team to Mississippi at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Most of the players were asleep, he said.

The plane heeled to the left and went dark, but the pilot quickly righted it and landed without incident, he said. The players woke before the landing and applauded.

Ellis pointed out it was the second close call for the team in less than seven years. During the 2008 Southeastern Conference tournament in Atlanta, the roof of the Georgia Dome was ripped open by a powerful storm toward the end of the Bulldogs’ game against Alabama.

“I’ve now survived a tornado during a game and a blown engine in flight,” Ellis tweeted Saturday. “All with MSU basketball. So is that 7 lives left for me?”

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