Smoke in Rear of Southwest Plane Causes Emergency Evacuation

Feb 13, 2018

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A Southwest Boeing 737 headed from John Wayne International Airport (SNA) in Orange County, California, to San Jose (SJC) was evacuated in an emergency Monday night due to a fire. Flight 2123 was stopped by ground crews after being pushed back from its gate when they noticed a fire in the rear of the plane.

The Boeing 737-700, with 143 seats, was immediately evacuated via the emergency slides and the overwing emergency exits.

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All 139 passengers and five crew members onboard safely evacuated  — five people reported minor injuries but none of them sought further treatment after initial treatment by emergency crew on the ground.

The fire, in the auxiliary power unit, was extinguished by the plane’s fire suppression system, officials report. The auxiliary unit is a small turbine engine located in the tail that can provide backup power on the ground, but whose main purpose is to provide power to start the engines. The decision to evacuate the plane was made out of “an abundance of caution,” according to responders at the scene. Passengers were taken back to the terminal after evacuating the plane and gate agents helped them book other flights to San Jose.

“Although some ground crews had seen some smoke coming from the tail, which is where the auxiliary power unit is, the pilots had very quickly pulled the fire extinguishing system and if there was any fire back there, it was extinguished quickly,” said OC Fire Authority Battalion Chief Ric Schultz in a news clip.

The emergency evacuation temporarily shutdown part of the taxiway at SNA but later returned to normal operation.

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