Florida-Bound Flight Makes Emergency Landing After Bird Strike Causes Fire

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
March 7, 2023Americas
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Florida-Bound Flight Makes Emergency Landing After Bird Strike Causes Fire
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane takes off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, on April 20, 2021. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

According to officials, a Southwest Airlines flight bound for Florida was forced to return to Cuba on Sunday due to a bird strike reportedly causing an engine to catch fire, filling the cabin with smoke.

The air carrier confirmed in a statement that 147 passengers and six crew members were safely evacuated from the plane via slides.

Southwest flight #2923 departed from Havana’s José Martí International Airport and was en route to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when it “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose,” the company said.

The aircraft was seen flying at low altitude in video footage captured by a passenger on board, which was shared on social media. The clip shows a thick layer of smoke in the cabin and some passengers wearing oxygen masks.

In another video, likely captured by a passenger who just evacuated the plane, multiple fire trucks can be seen at the scene as people are being evacuated via a slide.

After the evacuation, the airline said the airport bused passengers and crew members to the terminal and transferred them to a different flight to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

A passenger described his experience in an interview with NBC 6, saying the bird strike sounded “Like a big boom. Like an explosion.”

“To be honest, I thought it was my time to go,” Steven Rodriguez told the network. “I was terrified.”

Rodriguez also said crew members aboard the commercial flight did not immediately drop overhead oxygen masks, prompting passengers to try to access them manually.

“People started taking matters into their own hands and by force were punching the roof to eject the masks,” he said. “And people had bloody knuckles and all because they were punching the roof. There were little kids on the plane and elderly women.”

A Southwest spokesperson told People that all passengers have been compensated as he commended the “professional actions of our pilots and flight attendants in responding to this event.”

“We apologized to our Customers for the negative experience, extending compensation for the inconvenience and offering additional support,” the spokesperson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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