Lithium battery fire started onboard in mid flight - plane forced to make emergency landing
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"A few passengers jumped up to open the overhead bin and saw a backpack on fire due to a battery pack that was charging a cell phone. It had basically exploded."
A Spirit Airlines flight had to be diverted to make an emergency landing after a lithium battery caught fire in an overhead compartment. A video from inside the airplane shows how smoke quickly fills the cabin.
"Someone yelled 'fire' and I look up to see the cabin filling with smoke very fast," a passenger told CNN. "A few passengers jumped up to open the overhead bin and saw a backpack on fire due to a battery pack that was charging a cell phone. It had basically exploded."
Other media reports speak of a vape pen being charged. An article on Gizmodo.com says that a retired firefighter on the plane told local reporters that the device that caught fire was a battery-powered vape connected to a charging pack.
The passenger Joseph Fleck recorded a video showing fire officials boarding the plane and inspecting the overhead bin. He also shared an image of the smoke-filled cabin.
"The smell was terrible and made it very hard to breathe," he said, adding his children were emotional but became relieved once they exited the plane. "I was coughing a lot for a good two hours after.", the passenger Joseph Fleck said to journalists.
Ex firefighter tried to extinguish battery fire with his bare hands
As reported by ABC7NY.com, it was a former New York firefighter, Rocco Chierichella, who´s quick action aboard a Spirit Airlines flight from Dallas to Orlando, may have saved the passengers from further injury or worse.
He used his bare hands to suffocate the fire, and sustained burns on his skin.
The former firefighter jumped into action when his wife woke him up screaming "fire." The ex-firefighter woke up instantly, smelled the smoke and ran towards the origins of the fire. (Hear Rocco Chierichella speak about the incident in the video in the article).
Describing the smoke fire and fire, Chierichella says, "I kind of took charge, that's my nature."
As other crew members tried to extinguish the fire, Chierichella used his own hands to pat down the smoke-filled backpack.
Mr Chierichella suffered second degree burns. He says he is "grateful for the crewmembers and pilot" and for making it on the ground safely.
According to ABC7NY.com, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now investigating the incident, which involved an Airbus A320 that departed from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and was headed to Orlando International Airport.
"Spirit Airlines Flight 259 landed safely at Jacksonville International Airport around 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1 after the crew reported a battery on fire in an overhead bin," an FAA spokesperson told CNN.
Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department Captain Eric Prosswimmer told local media outlets that more people, including crewmembers, started feeling worse around 6 p.m. By the end of the day, a total of 10 people were sent for medical treatment after reportedly feeling ill. Spirit Airlines confirmed in a statement to multiple outlets that the fire was from “what’s believed to be a battery fire from a guest item in an overhead bin.”
Allegedly both passengers and crew members were given medical treatment for non-life-threatening conditions. The captain said he was "unable to elaborate further on their condition or treatment."
Photo Credit: A screenshot of a passenger video showing smoke coming from the overhead compartment in the Spirit Airlines flight where a lithium battery is believed to have started a fire.