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Federal probe underway after wheel falls off United jet out of SFO

A federal investigation is underway into a wheel falling off a United Airlines jet after takeoff Thursday at San Francisco International Airport.

The wheel came off the Boeing 777-200 jet seconds after takeoff and landed on vehicles parked in a nearby lot, causing significant damage.

No injuries were reported.

United Flight 35, which was destined for Osaka, Japan, was diverted to Los Angeles International Airport, where it landed safely. The plane was carrying a total of 249 people – 235 customers, 10 flight attendants and four pilots, according to the airline.

Federal investigators are now looking into what caused the wheel to fall off. It likely will be weeks before the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration can determine who is responsible for the incident.

“This is where I really think they’ll be focusing on United’s maintenance procedures and look at their paperwork and see where things happened,” said Mike McCarron, NBC Bay Area’s aviation expert. “Now, if they point to a structural problem, that’s when you get Boeing involved as far as the build of the aircraft.”

Video footage of the moment the wheel fell off shows the landing gear was retracting at the time.

On the ground at an employee parking lot north of SFO, the fallen wheel wrecked two vehicles. It also took down a section of fencing.

Records show the aircraft was delivered from Boeing to United 22 years ago.

United says it will work with customers as well as owners of the damaged vehicles to ensure their needs are addressed.

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