JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Spirit Airlines flight headed for Orlando was forced to make an emergency landing in Jacksonville on Wednesday after a fire, possibly caused by a vape battery, broke out inside the cabin.
NBC affiliate WTLV reported that Spirit Airlines flight 259 took off from Dallas at about 2 p.m. and landed just before 4 p.m. at Jacksonville International Airport.
The airline said the plane was diverted after a battery caught fire in an overhead bin, filling the cabin with smoke. A guest’s “personal item” was what ignited the blaze.
“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,” passenger Kerri Arakawa told WTLV.
Crew members and passengers sprung into action, Arakawa said. It reportedly took about 20 minutes to put the fire out.
“There was a retired fireman that jumped up and a flight crew came in and they tried putting water on it,” Arakawa told WTLV. “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.”
WJXT spoke to retired New York City firefighter Rocco Chierichella, who said he had burned his fingers trying to put out the fire. He claimed a vape battery started the blaze.
“It was starting to drop altitude and somebody yelled, ‘fire.’ Smoke was billowing out of it,” Chierichella told WJXT. “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.”
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department initially told WTLV that one person was taken to the hospital, but as time went on, more people reported feeling ill from the smoke.
“It was not until almost 6 o’clock that more people started feeling bad, and we then turned it into what we call an MCI level 1,” JFRD Captain Eric Proswimmer told WTLV.
Crew members were among the 10 people taken to the hospital with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening.
Spirit Airlines provided the following statement to WTLV:
“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. “Spirit Airlines
The airline said it would make arrangements to transport passengers to Orlando. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.