A lithium-ion battery fire forced a cross-country flight to return to California, where four passengers were hospitalised, according to authorities.
According to officials and flight tracking site FlightAware, the United Airlines flight from San Diego International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport had been in the air for a matter of seconds when the emergency erupted in its cabin Tuesday morning.
According to the San Diego Fire Department, seven people were injured, four of whom were taken to a UC San Diego trauma centre.
The hospitalised patients were treated for smoke inhalation, according to a statement from UC San Diego Health.
According to a statement from United Airlines, all or nearly all of the hospitalised people are crew members who may have put themselves in danger to deal with the fire. According to the report, the employees were hospitalised as a precaution.
According to fire officials, three other injured people refused hospitalisation despite the advice of first responders. According to United, at least two of those people were passengers.
According to the airline, the battery pack belonged to a customer. The crew “acted quickly to contain the device,” according to United. Crew members were also credited by the fire department with preventing the fire from spreading to the plane itself.
“We thank our crew for their quick actions in putting everyone on board the aircraft’s safety first,” United said.
According to fire officials, one of the tools used in the fight was a fire bag, which was used to keep flames from spreading.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, which was investigating alongside the National Transportation Safety Board, the aircraft, a Boeing 737, landed safely around 7:30 a.m. The number of passengers was not provided.
Lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in electronics and electric vehicles, can rapidly generate flame-spreading heat. When they erupt, as they are increasingly doing, the fires are resistant to traditional firefighting techniques.
According to FAA regulations, passengers may bring backup or spare lithium-ion batteries for their own use on flights, but the batteries may not be in checked baggage. They must be carried in carry-on bags, with their terminals taped over, protected by packaging, or otherwise covered. Two large batteries are allowed per passenger.
The FAA considers such batteries to be “dangerous goods.”