Vikings stranded on plane for hours

Jen Zettel
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GREENVILLE -  The Minnesota Vikings Christmas weekend visit to Wisconsin got off to a rocky start Friday night when the team's plane skidded off the taxiway here, leaving players, coaches and staff stranded for more than three hours.

The team was eventually removed from the plane two and three people at a time via equipment from Fox Crossing and New London fire departments. The deplaning began about 8:20 p.m., a process that took three hours. As the players and staff members exited the plane, they were escorted to a waiting bus. The first players to arrive at the hotel made it there around 10:30 p.m., more than five hours after they landed at Appleton International Airport. Everyone on the team was off the plane by 11:30 p.m., said Fox Crossing Fire Chief Keith Kiesow.

"This is very atypical," airport director Abe Weber said of the airport's inability to quickly get the passengers off the plane. A mobile stairwell to accommodate the team's Airbus A330 was not available, and the plane was stranded some 200 yards away from the terminal.

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"We didn't have (mobile) equipment large enough for that plane to deplane passengers," Weber said.

A rear wheel on the plane's landing gear slid off the taxiway amid snowy conditions shortly after 5 p.m., Weber said.

The Vikings flew into Appleton International on their way to the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton, where they were staying in advance of Saturday's noon game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Minnesota Vikings players, coaches and staff and brought off their stranded airplane two and three at a time via a fire truck on Friday night at the Appleton International Airport in Greenville.
The plane carrying the Minnesota Vikings skidded off the Appleton International Airport Friday night, leaving the team stranded on the plane for more than three hours.

Weber said the Airbus A330 landed safely and was taxiing to the arrival gate around 5:10 p.m. when the incident happened.

"When the aircraft was taxiing in, one of the rear main landing gears left the pavement," Weber said.

No one was injured.

"I do not know what the cause of the aircraft tire leaving the pavement was," Weber said.

The Minnesota Vikings tweeted from their official account around 7:15 p.m. confirming the team was on the plane.

Weber said the plane was carrying about 150 people. He said there was constant communication between the people on the plane and the airport and rescue personnel.

"The safest place for the players was to stay on the airplane," Weber said of the delay in retrieving the needed equipment. "This is a process. Again, it's very atypical."

Vikings officials or players were not immediately available for comment.

The incident comes as the Vikings, in a freefall over the second half of a once-promising season, prepare for an NFC North Division showdown with the surging Packers.

Jen Zettel: 920-996-7268, or; on Twitter @jenzettel

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