APPLETON, WIS. – The Vikings have had their issues with touchdowns of late, but what happened Friday night was ridiculous even for them.
Their team plane slid off a taxiway at snowy Appleton International Airport and become stuck in the grass, causing players, coaches and staff to be stuck on the aircraft well into the night — only hours before the Vikings were to play the rival Green Bay Packers in a must-win game for their playoff hopes.
“While taxiing after a safe landing, the team plane slid off the runway and became stuck,” the Vikings wrote on their Twitter account. “We are waiting patiently to exit the plane.”
That was about 7:12 p.m. Friday. By then, the team had been trapped for about two hours following a flight that typically takes less than 50 minutes.
Fire trucks were called in from surrounding communities to help the approximately 150 passengers aboard the Delta charter off the plane, said Abe Weber, the airport’s director, during a news conference. Passengers didn’t begin deplaning until around 9:15 p.m., coming down in cherry-pickers in groups of two.
Weber said fire trucks had to be summoned because the airport has no portable stairs tall enough and because the plane was stuck too far away from the terminal to use boarding bridges.
“This is very atypical,” Weber said.
Several Vikings players posted their experiences of getting off the plane on social media, and they appeared to be in good spirits. Brian Robison and Cordarrelle Patterson came down together, with a smiling Patterson saying on a video posted to Twitter, “What’s up guys? Finally made it out after four hours waiting on the plane.”
Robison posted a video on Instagram of him and Patterson laughing as they approached the ground. As they finally returned to the earth, Robison turned the camera to his face and said, “Houston, we have touchdown.”
Eric Kendricks posted a video of him smiling with a fireman as he and Anthony Harris descended on the cherry-picker. Even coach Mike Zimmer grinned and waved as he came down from the plane.
There were buses awaiting to take the team to its Appleton hotel, with the airport’s Twitter account saying “several” buses carrying players and staff had left by 10:10 p.m.
Passengers were still being helped off after that, though. There were still 25 staff members on the plane as the clock approached 11 p.m. — nearly six hours after the plane landed.
“We’re using an abundance of caution,” Weber said. “… We wanted to make sure the players were as safe as posible in deplaning.”
About 20 fans, some wearing purple Vikings jerseys, waited for the first buses to pull up to the hotel as a light snow fell. A few fans also chanted “Go Pack Go” before buses arrived. Appleton is located about 35 miles southwest of Green Bay.
At 11:44 p.m., the team tweeted, “Back at the team hotel, the #Vikings are nestled, all snug in their beds.”
The airport’s Twitter account wrote that the plane “had a rear wheel leave the taxiway en route to arrival gate,” saying the problem occurred around 6:30 p.m. However, according to the Vikings public relations department, the team had been stuck since about 5 p.m. No one was injured, the team said.
“Bring food. And water. And blankets. Just in case,” Vikings radio announcer Paul Allen tweeted from the plane.
How's your day going? pic.twitter.com/Xtq6V3ZQPJ— Chad Greenway (@chadgreenway52) December 24, 2016