The Delta flight from LaGuardia to Houston was delayed Wednesday afternoon after flames shot out of the overhead storage bin and sent smoke billowing through the cabin.
“You could tell it was a very strong smell, smelled like a campfire at first,” passenger Rex Sakamoto told CBS2. “Once I realized and someone yelled fire, it was startling like wow, I need to get off this plane right now.”
The East Harlem resident says sparks started to fly above the seats in row 10 while passengers were still boarding. Video from the plane shows a flight attendant using a fire extinguisher before travelers were told to get off the plane.
CBS2 Facetimed with the “NowThis” news producer as he and dozens of others waited at the gate for their new flight to Texas.
“It was just like a ripple effect of this chaos,” he said.
The mayhem was caused by a vape pen that started smoldering inside a bag after the device’s battery pack overheated. An FAA report from August 2018 shows there have been at least 225 cases of smoke, fire, overheating or explosion involving lithium ion batteries or other unknown types of batteries on plans and in airports since 1991.
Some of the electronics that seem to be the most common culprits for small fires on planes are things we need to stay connected while we travel, like laptops and cell phones. In October 2016, a smokey Samsung smartphone cause the evacuation of a Southwest Airlines flight.
The FAA report also mentioned battery chargers, cameras, noise canceling headphones, flashlights, even batter-heated socks.
“I’m just so glad it happened on the ground and not in the air,” Sakamoto said of the silver lining to the orange glow that delayed his trip.