Seven Hawaiian Airlines passengers – including a nine-month-old baby – were hospitalized on Thursday after an engine issue caused the cabin to fill with smoke during the trip from California to Hawaii, forcing an emergency landing in Honolulu.
Around 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, Hawaiian Airlines Flight 47 from Oakland landed at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, roughly 20 minutes after the smoke was first detected, Hawaii News Now reports.
According to passenger Lucky Cara, smoke appeared in the commercial plane’s cabin “all of a sudden” as the aircraft neared the Aloha State.
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“I was scared. It just kept getting worse and worse, and there were a few people that were crying but they settled down,” Cara spoke of the sight, as seen in video footage obtained by Fox News.
Passenger Linda Puu echoed similar sentiments, describing the smoke as “really getting thick” before the flight touched down, News Now reports. Puu also praised the quick actions of the emergency personnel who responded to the scene, waiting for flight 47 on the tarmac.
“[An emergency landing is] something you think you’re never going to do but you go very fast and the firemen are down there catching you and helping you up,” she said.
The flight landed safely without issue, and all 184 passengers and seven crew members used evacuation slides to exit the aircraft.
American Medical Response spokesman James Ireland said a total of 11 patients had breathing complaints and seven were taken to the hospital with respiratory problems.
Ireland said the youngest patient taken to the hospital was a 9-month-old. He said another older child was also taken to the hospital and the rest were adults.
All injuries were considered minor, and one passenger was examined at the scene for injuries sustained during the evacuation.
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Airport Fire Chief Glenn Mitchell commended the passengers’ orderly behavior when exiting the Hawaiian Airlines plane, a procedure which took only about 30 seconds, noting that they wisely did not try to take their luggage with them.
“People were orderly. The 30-second timetable is a great tribute to the airline and their staff in making sure the evacuation was done not only efficiently but safely,” Mitchell told News Now.
As for technicalities, Jon Snook, Hawaiian Airlines’ chief operating officer, said that there was no active fire anywhere on the plane during the emergency.
After a smoke indication in the cargo hold set off a warning in the cockpit and visible smoke appeared in the cabin, the automatic fire suppression system was activated in the cargo hold, he said.
Later Thursday, representatives for the carrier released a statement explaining that the smoke was likely caused by an issue with the aircraft’s engine.
“We have since determined that a seal failed in the aircraft’s left engine, causing oil to leak onto hot parts of the plane’s engine and air conditioning pressurization system, resulting in smoke in the cabin,” Alex Da Silva, a spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines, told News Now.
Da Silva further explained that “the performance of the engine was not affected.”
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After the group made it off the aircraft, shuttles took passengers, who left their luggage behind, to a staging area at the airport.
Snook said Hawaiian Airlines is refunding passengers for the cost of their round-trip tickets and will give passengers a voucher for future travel.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to get the bags released from the aircraft, obviously we want to be sure that we understand what the source of the smoke was and one possibility, of course, is that the bags may have been a source,” he said. “We have no evidence to suggest that right now but we want to be cautious about taking the bags off.”
The Hawaiian Airlines executive also thanked the crew and passengers for evacuating in an orderly way “in what could have been a complex and dangerous situation.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration plan to launch an investigation into the incident, USA Today reports.
Representatives for the carrier were not immediately available to comment on a request for additional information.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.