Injured Passengers Take Legal Action After Three Aircraft Evacuations In A Week

Aviation Experts Say Questions About Cabin Smoke Must Be Answered

22.11.2012

Lawyers representing passengers injured in three separate emergencies involving Boeing aircraft within the space of eight days last month have demanded the manufacturer and aviation authorities explain the cause of the spate of recent incidents, and provide reassurances that the problems will not be repeated.

Aviation law experts at Irwin Mitchell have been instructed by several British holidaymakers who were hurt when three different models of Boeing suffered problems with smoke in their cabins – with two of the incidents occurring on the same day:

  • October 11th – a Boeing 757 operated by Thomas Cook and flying from Dalaman was evacuated upon landing at Glasgow Airport due to smoke on board
  • October 19th – a Boeing 737 operated by Jet2 was forced to abort its takeoff from Glasgow Airport when smoke was detected in the cabin.
  • October 19th – just hours later, a Thomas Cook Boeing 767 flying from Manchester to Tenerife was forced to divert to Dublin after smoke was detected in the cabin.

Passengers have revealed how they and many other holidaymakers faced a traumatic ordeal, with a number of those involved in the first two incidents forced to disembark using emergency chutes.

They have also raised concerns over the handling of the evacuation processes, with some of them suffering injuries during the rush to clear the planes. Other passengers are also being monitored by medical experts to see if they have suffered as a result of smoke inhalation.

Now, Irwin Mitchell’s specialist lawyers are calling on Thomas Cook, Jet2, Boeing and the Air Accident Investigation Branch to release full details of their investigations so far, as well as to provide reassurances that work is being done to ensure further incidents of this nature will be avoided in the future.

Jim Morris, a former RAF Boeing pilot and Partner in Irwin Mitchell’s Aviation Law team, said: “To see three smoke incidents in such a short space of time is a huge cause for concern and clearly something that the passengers onboard deserve comprehensive explanations about.

“The impact of smoke incidents in a cabin cannot be underestimated – smoke and the associated risk of fire can be catastrophic so is treated as a serious emergency, causing the crew to take drastic action such as aborting the takeoff or diverting the aircraft, then using the emergency chutes to evacuate the passengers.  Even when there is just smoke, this exposure in itself can have serious consequences  as it is known that gases or fumes onboard flights can contain dangerous toxins which can potentially have a lasting impact on those exposed to them. Anyone concerned about this issue must seek urgent medical attention.

“Equally concerning are reports about the handling of evacuations, with many of our clients revealing how they were hurt during the process. Some of our clients are still suffering several weeks after the incident they were involved in.

“All of our clients are still coming to terms with what they have been through, but are angry and keen to understand why they have these problems occurred. We are determined to help them get the justice they deserve.”

While two of the affected flights were operated by Thomas Cook and two of the incidents happened in Glasgow, legal experts stressed at this stage there is no direct link established between each of the incidents.

Jim added: “Thomas Cook have confirmed that the October 11th incident was caused by an oil leak in the aircraft’s Auxiliary Power Unit, used to power air conditioning and lighting systems when the engine is not in use. We are awaiting independent verification of this. At the same time, we and our clients want to know whether a similar oil leak caused the problems with the other aircraft.

“We are continuing with our own assessments of each incident but it is vital that accident reports are published promptly to determine the causes of these incidents and to establish whether they are linked in any way. We are also keen to speak to other passengers who may be able to provide information about the incidents and the evacuation process which could help our investigations.”

Case Studies

Elizabeth Rush, 70, from Lanark, suffered a leg injury in the emergency evacuation of the Jet2 flight at Glasgow Airport on October 19th. The retired nurse, who uses a walking stick and also suffers from diabetes, was looking forward to a break with her husband John, also 71, when the take-off was abort due to smoke in the cabin.

She recalls: “The evacuation process was chaos. The air hostesses on board were screaming for people to get off the plane, with no organisation about how it was done.

“I was pushed down the emergency chute during the evacuation and as soon as I hit the bottom a line of men came down after me and hit me. I was also separated from my husband during the whole ordeal – it was awful.”

Mrs Rush was taken to Royal Alexandra Hospital and waited several hours before being seen. After being discharged, her grandson took her back to the airport where she and her husband were put on another flight.

She explained: “The week away was also a disaster as, with my leg in so much pain, we had to take taxis everywhere.

“Throughout the evacuation, the time in hospital and on holiday we never heard anything from Jet2 about what we had been through. We’ve also not had any letters or apologies since. We are so upset by everything which has happened but have been given no answers over it, it is just appalling.”

Craig Gourlay, 35, from Lanarkshire, was on the Thomas Cook flight which landed at Glasgow Airport on October 11th with his wife and four-year-old son. He injured his back after sliding down an emergency chute during the incident.

Recalling his experiences, he revealed how he noticed a gas-like smell on board which grew stronger following the plane’s landing.

He outlines: “The cabin started to fill with thick smoke and we simply could not see how we could get out – it was truly terrifying.

“An air stewardess was screaming about a ‘fire situation’ so we moved as quickly as we could. I simply grabbed my son and jumped down the chute, but hurt my back on the tarmac at the bottom. The handling of the whole situation was a major concern and I was shocked there was no assistance at the top or bottom of the chute.

“My son has already told my wife and I that he doesn’t want to fly ever again. We were all so shaken up, but that trauma has turned into a real concern over the handling of the incident and why passengers were not given greater support. We want answers.”