The emergency evacuation slide is a regular piece of modern passenger aviation technology. It usually works perfectly and Hollywood has made its use seem like a quirky joke; essentially a fun ending to potentially terrifying situations like unplanned landings. 

But that wasn’t the case for Patrick Devitt and his father-in-law this week.

The slide from a United-operated Boeing 767 fell into a private garden near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Monday, only avoiding injuring those on the ground by luck. 

Devitt, of North Chester Avenue, Chicago, told local news stations the equipment landed in his back yard and he dragged it to the front of his property. 

“It’s a very, very big piece of equipment that fell,” Devitt remarked. 

It is understood the slide hit the house’s roof, damaging tiles and a kitchen window. It is only by chance that no one was struck. 

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The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said the missing slide was noticed by ground crew at O’Hare after the United service landed without issue from Switzerland. The FAA said its investigation was ongoing. United said it is working with its crews to understand what happened.

Although the slide detachment is rare, it has been recorded on the 767 before. It happened in 2016 and 2019, both previous events also occurred in the US. 

“I’m stunned a little bit,” Devitt said. “I’m just glad that everybody is safe and okay. Just seeing that in my backyard… wow. This really happened. It fell off of an aeroplane and landed in our backyard.”