By Thomas Bywater
Some of the 130 passengers who survived a terrifying plane fire last Wednesday have come under fire for a selfish act which may have endangered lives.
The Red Air service which came into Miami International Airport from the Dominican Republic on the evening of June 22 was in full view of the busy airport terminals. The failure of the front landing gear on approach and subsequent efforts of the firefighters to douse flames were all seen by those at the airport. It seemed like a “miracle” that the passengers escaped the McDonnell Douglas MD-82.
Videos of the dramatic moment were shared across social media. However, a detail caught on in the clips has angered travel experts. Many of those fleeing the fire paused take luggage on their way out of the burning plane.
“Can we have a frank discussion about travellers taking luggage with them during an emergency evacuation?” tweeted aviation journalist Edward Russell.
In further videos captured from inside the cabin suitcases and luggage were seen clogging the aisle and loose pieces of clothing were seen around passengers’ ankles on the emergency exit.
There were three reported three injuries among passengers escaping the fire.
Many stopping to film the escape on smartphones clearly didn’t understand the urgency of the situation. Investigations into similar incidents say the phenomenon of escapes being slowed by attempts to find luggage is a common concern.
A UK investigation commissioned by the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2018 found that 35 per cent of passengers would stop to grab hand luggage in an emergency.
In 2019 the Investigative Committee into a plane fire at Sheremetyevo Airport that killed 41 people found that passengers grabbing luggage was a contributing factor to the toll.
The report said “many passengers delayed emergency evacuation – because against all instructions – they were picking up hand luggage from overhead compartments.”
While flight safety briefings tell passengers to leave luggage, airlines have struggled for years with the reality of how passengers behave in the event of an emergency.
If you have to evacuate an aircraft first priority sould go to getting out of the aircraft as quickly as possible, a spokesperson for the US Flight Safety Foundation told the New York Times, following the incident last week.
“There’s not much in your carry-on luggage worth dying for,” he said. You wouldn’t want your luggage to be the reason someone else gote injured.
What caused the runway fire?
A statement from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said there were 130 passengers and ten crew aboard the plane, a McDonnell Douglas MD-82. There were three people reported to have been injured in the incident.
Their investigators are on site and working with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews which responded to the fire. The Black Box cockpit recorder had been recovered however NTSB could not make further statement on the cause of the event.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava was a witness to the incident, after arriving on a flight from Philadelphia.
“Apparently a tire burst, and then it went back up and came back down, and the landing was so hard, that the entire landing apparatus was destroyed and the belly of the plane is on the ground,” Cava told WSVN.
“What happened here is a miracle,” she said.
The airline said the aircraft suffered “technical difficulties” following the arrival at Miami International.
“At Red Air we express our absolute solidarity with the passengers and crew of the aircraft,” the company said in the statement.