A fire on a Spirit Airlines flight going to Orlando was diverted to the airport in Jacksonville after someone noticed the cabin aboard the aircraft was ablaze.
On Wednesday, the Spirit Airlines plane had come from Dallas, Texas, earlier in the day. The fire reportedly began after a battery ignited in an overhead cabin while inside a passenger’s carry-on luggage. Two hours into the journey on flight 259, the plane filled with smoke. It landed at Jacksonville International Airport at around 4 pm.
“I was right across from a luggage bin, and I saw smoke coming out of it. And I wasn’t sure what it was. And then all of a sudden, just a ton of smoke came out,” Spirit Airlines passenger Kerri Arakawa told WTLV.
Arawaka praised the flight’s crew and fellow passengers for extinguishing the fire– though it took almost 20 minutes.
“There was a retired fireman that jumped up, and a flight crew came in, and they tried putting water on it. And then another guy went and got a bucket because I think the fireman reached in and grabbed it, and they got it put out,” Arawaka continued.
The heroic firefighter referred to was retired NYC fireman Rocco Chierichellla. He also alluded to the cause of the fire. The retired firefighter also suffered burns on his hands and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
“It was starting to drop altitude, and somebody yelled, ‘Fire.’ Smoke was billowing out of it,” Chierichella said. “And what it was, was a battery-powered vape tied to a battery charging inside the compartment. Very dangerous. And it ignited a piece of luggage next to it.”
Another passenger heading to Disney World in Orlando, Joseph Fleck, recalled that smoke began to consume the cabin, and everyone was relieved to get off the airplane.
“Everyone calmed down a bit, and we all clapped, but it was still really hard to breathe in there. The fumes were terrible.”
— Joseph Fleck (@nottajshow) March 1, 2023
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) told WTLV almost a dozen people were taken to the hospital– many became ill from the smoke. The injuries were not life-threatening.
Spirit Airlines issued a statement to the news outlet.
“Spirit Airlines flight 259 from Dallas (DFW) to Orlando (MCO) diverted to Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) following what’s believed to be a battery fire from a Guest item in an overhead bin that was extinguished inflight. The plane landed at JAX and taxied to the terminal without incident. We thank our crew and Guests for their quick actions to ensure the safety of everyone onboard, and we thank first responders for meeting the aircraft.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently investigating the incident.
According to the FAA website, “When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, all spare lithium batteries and power banks must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin. The battery terminals must be protected from short circuit.”
The batteries are also listed on the dangerous goods list on the website.