31 December 2008

De-icer fumes sicken airline passengers

This is not the incident aircraft pictured
SEATAC, Wash. – At least 25 passengers and crew on an Alaska Airlines flight were treated Wednesday after de-icer fumes filled the cabin at Sea-Tac Airport.
The accident left many passengers with irritated eyes and vomiting, but none of them wanted to get off the plane after waiting days to catch a flight to their holiday destination.At about 8:30 a.m., the fumes filled the cabin of Flight 528 bound for Burbank, Calif. The 143 passengers and six crew members started smelling strong fumes as the de-icer was being applied to the plane.

"All of a sudden, all of this billowing smoke was coming out of the vents and then we were kind of locked in there for like a half-an-hour after that. And when they finally let us out of the gate, a lot of us were nauseous,” said passenger Bob Vitti.
Airport officials say the de-icer is a standard product that's used frequently, but that it’s meant only for the outside of an airplane.

"So if somehow fumes may have come in through maybe a air system, filtration system, or another way, those fumes could've been something that was a slightly toxic or irritating to folks' eyes and throats,” said Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper.

The plane returned to the gate, where airport medics briefly evaluated 18 passengers, giving some eye washes. All the passengers had numbers written on their hands as they were being checked by paramedics.

Following Alaska Airlines policy, the six crew members and one non-working Alaska flight attendant were taken to nearby Highline Medical Center where they were checked out and released about an hour later.

“I think the pilot got the worst of it,” said passenger Arianna Morgan.
Many passengers, like Morgan, had been waiting for days for a flight out of Sea-Tac, delayed by unusually bad winter weather.

“They said that if they thought that I was getting sick, they wouldn’t let me on the plane. So, I went to the bathroom and I got sick in the bathroom so they wouldn’t see that,” said Morgan. “I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I knew I wouldn’t get home for Christmas.”
Despite the scare, every passenger decided to re-board a replacement flight and landed safely in California.

The FAA and Alaska Airlines are investigating what caused the fumes to get into the plane.

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