Utah Jazz players on flight feared ‘this might really be the end,’ Jordan Clarkson says

of the Utah Jazz team feared for their lives after the team’s charter plane collided with a flock of birds shortly after takeoff on Tuesday, causing fire and engine damage and requiring an emergency landing.

For 10 or 15 minutes during the flight, we all doubted we’d be here tonight, Jazz point guard Mike Conley said after Wednesday night’s 111-107 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. That’s how serious it was for us. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know the guys were trying to write the family just in case, you know? It was one of those situations.

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell missed Wednesday’s game for personal reasons, the team said. Mitchell, who has spoken about his fear of flying in the past, did not join the team on the flight from Salt Lake City to Memphis that departed several hours after an emergency landing.

It got to the point where we were all on the plane, like: This really could be the end, Jazz sixth man Jordan Clarkson said. I mean, it was a crazy situation. I totally understand why Don didn’t show up.

Mitchell bravely tweeted in support of his teammates in the win over the Grizzlies.

During his presentation before the race, Utah coach Quin Snyder declined to answer a question about whether Tuesday’s incident could affect Mitchell’s preparation for future road races. The Jazz, who play twice at home this weekend, play at Dallas on Monday.

Snyder said the Jazz met Wednesday morning in Memphis to help each other through the horrific experience.

I don’t know if such an experience is suddenly a thing of the past, Snyder said. They are all affected differently, all in a very important way. And it wasn’t something that we were going to solve by just talking about everything, but I think it was important to acknowledge what we’ve all been through [Tuesday], and really have that same sense of gratitude and appreciation for the vulnerability that we all live with, sometimes without even realizing it.

Conley said it was as if there had been an explosion on the plane, a Delta charter. He said the plane immediately began bouncing and leaning over to the left, and people behind him saw flames as the altitude decreased in flight.

Nobody knows. Everyone is calm, said Conley, who scored 26 points and provided seven assists in the win over the Grizzlies. It took about 5-10 minutes for the pilots to go through everything, do their checks and come back to us to let us know what was going on. Because it was obvious that there was something wrong with the plane.

It felt like the plane was falling apart in mid-air. For five or ten minutes it was total helplessness. We’re glad it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was scary.

Snyder, Clarkson and Conley praised the pilots for their calm, professional and skillful execution of an emergency landing.

It’s definitely something, an experience we’re happy to share, Clarkson said. Many of us have reached a point….. At least 30 seconds into this flight, everyone got to a point where it was : Dude, this could be the end for us. It’s a sad thing to say. I’m not playing with death or anything.

It’s just something we have to fight for, come together and keep going, stay strong, support each other. How much time do we have to take time off, or talk to our psychiatrists, or whatever, it’s a serious situation when you’ve never faced life and death before.

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