A Southwest Airlines flight scheduled to leave Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday morning was evacuated on the runway after a passenger’s Samsung cellphone caught fire, passengers and the airline said.
Southwest said in a statement that passengers and airline employees were taken off Flight 994, which was scheduled to leave for Baltimore, after a customer reported “smoke emitting from a Samsung electronic device.”
The Verge identified the passenger as Brian Green and his phone as “a replacement Galaxy Note 7.”
A Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement on Wednesday that the company was unable to immediately confirm which device was involved in the episode.
“We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause,” the statement said. “Once we have examined the device, we will have more information to share.”
The company, which is the world’s largest smartphone maker, announced last month that it would replace 2.5 million of the smartphone model because of a flaw in the battery’s cell that could result in the devices bursting into flames or exploding.
Mr. Green told The Verge that he had picked up the new phone on Sept. 21, after the recall. The episode could be damaging for the company, because the replacement devices were thought to be safe. The new models had been approved by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, which on Wednesday said it was investigating the episode.
In a statement, the commission chairman, Elliot F. Kaye, encouraged owners of the smartphone to turn it off and immediately participate in the recall. He also said staff members had reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration, Samsung and Mr. Green, noting that the agency is “moving expeditiously to investigate this incident.”
Christine Sundman, 65, a retired teacher who was planning to return home to New Hampshire after visiting her daughter’s family in Louisville, was one of the passengers evacuated from the flight. She said that a woman sitting near the phone’s owner had told her that the device had just been powered down when it caught fire.
The owner quickly dropped the device on the floor, Mrs. Sundman said in a phone interview.
Mrs. Sundman said she had been sitting in the seventh row of the plane and did not notice any commotion until a flight attendant rushed to the front to consult with her colleague. As they exchanged urgent whispers, Mrs. Sundman said, “I did hear the word ‘smoke.’ ”
The two flight attendants went into the cockpit, Mrs. Sundman said, and within seconds the captain came out and calmly told passengers that the plane had to be evacuated. She said he did not need to use the loudspeaker to make his voice heard.
As the passengers disembarked, the smell of smoke began to permeate the plane.
“I did not see any of the passengers lose control,” Mrs. Sundman said. “One woman was kind of buzzing around a lot, but nobody lost control. The airline was working as hard as it could.”
Mrs. Sundman said the passengers were eventually told that a hole had burned through the floor. After about two hours, she said, the flight was canceled and passengers were allowed back on the plane to recover their baggage.
“This could have happened moments after we took off, or in the air,” she said. “It could have been catastrophic.”
Earlier this year, Qantas banned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones from its flights because of instances in which they caught fire when business-class passengers dropped their devices into the electronically activated seats, crushing the phone and damaging the battery. Air France also said it had several in-flight smoke or fire events that were set off in the same way.
Credit to New York Times