Bill Self was thankful to be home Monday night.
Well, Topeka Regional Airport, to be more specific. But close enough.
“Well, we are home. We’re home here in Topeka. It feels good,” Self said. “I mean, the fact that we committed 14 turnovers the first half (of Sunday’s game) really didn’t matter much last night or this morning.”
Self spoke to reporters after his Kansas basketball team’s arrival at approximately 5:55 p.m., arriving a day later than planned after Sunday’s flight out of San Jose, Calif., experienced engine failure and required an emergency landing back at the departure airport.
“It probably wasn’t exactly as it was portrayed. It got a little scary, and certainly it was a shocker,” Self said. “I guess we were fortunate probably that it blew in the first 20 or 25 minutes of the trip before we got over the mountains where we really didn’t have a place to land easily. But the pilots did a great job, and everybody was calm."
A Swift Air passenger jet carrying a group of approximately 60 individuals, with Jayhawk players, coaches, athletic department personnel and boosters included, sustained engine failure shortly after departure from Mineta San Jose International Airport on Sunday. The charter flight went back to San Jose, where the Jayhawks stayed overnight.
“It was a relatively smooth ride back (to San Jose), just a little bit of vibration," Self said. "But initially there was a pretty loud sound and certainly a lot of vibrations, and I think it did rattle us a little initially. But everybody was so calm. It turned out to not be as significant as what it could’ve been.”
There were no injuries stemming from the incident, though those on board did experience turbulence, a KU representative told The Topeka Capital-Journal on Sunday night.
“It’s obviously a concern, but I believe the university’s obviously doing an unbelievable job with all the safety precautions that need to be in place in order to ensure safety,” Self said. “Of course in life some things happen that you can’t really control, but there’s a lot of people flying a lot all the time. You hear about these things that occur unfortunately too often, but still, you always think when it does it’s somebody else or somebody you don’t know. And so this kind of hit home.”
Ryan White, KU's senior associate athletics director of development, tweeted video of flames emanating from the jet’s wing while the flight was still in the air.
Self, who was sitting at the front of the plane, wasn’t aware of that aspect until they landed.
“That probably would’ve rattled the plane a little more if we’d all seen (the flames),” Self said.
KU was in California for a road tilt at Stanford, which the Jayhawks won 72-56 earlier Sunday.
Several KU players recalled the experience on social media upon their safe arrival in San Jose.
“Never prayed like that before,” tweeted senior forward Mitch Lightfoot. “Thank the Lord!”
Self said he thought he players handled the situation “very well.”
“I talked to each one of ’em, but not in a big-time, sit-down conversation. There wasn’t time for that,” Self said. “But each one of them said they were doing OK. One of them was a little rattled, but he seemed fine by an hour or so after.”
Lightfoot, who noted Monday that he always makes sure to text his mom that he loves her before boarding a flight, said this was one of the few examples where he hadn’t, which crossed his mind while the incident was unfolding. Lightfoot was one of the handful of individuals who could see the flames coming from the wing and added he never really knew what was going on.
“I don’t even know what I was thinking,” Lightfoot said. “I was praying hard and hoping we were back on the Earth in a short amount of time.”