15 Passengers Treated for Injuries After Pepper Spray Leaks on Hawaiian Flight

Sep 4, 2018

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Emergency first responders treated 15 passengers on Hawaiian Airlines flight 23 from Oakland (OAK) to Maui (OGG) for respiratory issues after a can of pepper spray leaked noxious gas into the aircraft cabin late last week.

The can of pepper spray was in a passenger’s carry-on bag, officials said. It is illegal to bring a pepper spray onto a flight in a carry-on bag.

Reports say that about halfway through the five-hour flight, passengers began to detect a bizarre odor in the aircraft cabin. Then, passengers began to cough, cry and hold shirts over their mouths. As the flight continued, the situation worsened, with passengers demanding clean air, according to passenger Lisa Sakimura’s account of the situation on Twitter.

“First class and premium section passengers all started to cough and the flight attendants could barely see or talk,” passenger Kevin Olson told Hawaii News Now.

Sakimura says that the passengers in the affected area — near the first class and premium sections — were moved to the back of the plane and given wet napkins to put on their noses and mouths. She also says that a baby on the flight choked and vomited from the irritants in the air.

The Boeing 767’s 256 passengers were stuck in the tainted air for almost two hours — until the plane was given an expedited landing in Maui, according to Hawaii News Now. The plane landed safely there, and firefighters boarded the aircraft and informed passengers they had found the cause of the respiratory irritation: a 1.5-oz can of pepper spray.

Hawaiian apologized to its passengers and gave them each a $500 voucher for the trouble.

“During the cruise portion of the flight … passengers in the forward section of the Boeing 767 experienced an unpleasant odor,” Hawaiian Airlines said. “The odor was determined to have come from a can of pepper spray brought on board illegally by a passenger.”

Oddly enough, the pepper spray wasn’t the only incident on board Hawaiian flight 23. Before takeoff, a teenage girl had a mishap with an iPhone AirDrop. She was trying to share a picture of a fake crime scene for a school project with her mother. Instead, other passengers at the gate also got the picture, which was of a fake deceased body. The picture, deemed to be threatening, delayed the flight for an hour and a half, and the mother and daughter were rebooked on another plane.

The Transportation Security Administration is investigating the pepper spray incident to see how the can got through security at Oakland’s airport. Passengers who bring pepper spray on an aircraft in a carryon bag could face a fine of up to $1,960.

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