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'Seemed like pandemonium': Cellphone catches fire on-board Air Canada flight
Published Thursday, March 1, 2018 11:52AM EST Last Updated Thursday, March 1, 2018 7:16PM EST
An Air Canada flight was delayed at Pearson International Airport this morning after a passenger’s cellphone caught fire on the plane, the airline said.
Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesperson for Air Canada, said there were 266 customers on board the flight, which was headed to Vancouver.
He said the phone caught fire at around 7 a.m. as the flight crew was preparing for takeoff.
"The fire was immediately extinguished by our crew and there was no damage to the aircraft," Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
Toronto Coun. Joe Cressy was aboard the plane when he said he heard “a commotion” 15 to 20 rows behind him.
He said staff immediately snapped into action, extinguishing the fire and calling for any medical professional aboard to come and help.
I happened to be on the @AirCanada flight this morning where the cell phone fire incident occurred. The Air Canada staff were quick and professional in their response and the Pearson Fire crew were excellent. Thanks all around.— Joe Cressy (@joe_cressy) March 1, 2018
“The smoke was bigger than the flame, so that’s what I saw,” Cressy told CP24 via phone.
The owner of the phone did suffer some injuries and was treated by emergency personnel who responded to the scene.
Cressy said he felt a momentary pang of fear when he saw the smoke.
“Anytime you see smoke on a plane, you tend to think the worst,” he said.
According to Fitzpatrick, the owner of the phone was able to walk off the plane and the flight later departed from the airport without further incident.
“I thought I was going to wait another day (for a new plane), but we were on the runway and moving two hours later,” Cressy said.
Later, when the flight arrived in Vancouver, passengers expressed relief that the incident didn’t happen while in mid-air. They told CTV News Vancouver that the owner of the phone was trying to stomp the flames out.
“It’s lucky they opened the doors as soon as they did because afterwards it probably would have filled the entire plane,” one passenger said. “I’m thinking twenty minutes later, up in the air, it would have been a very serious situation.”
Brandon Scott, who was also on the flight, compared the fire to a “small campfire-sized flame.”
“I heard yelling, it just seemed like pandemonium, there was confusion about what was going on and people were jumping out of their seats,” Scott said. “I looked behind and in the aisle and it looked like a small campfire-sized flame.”
While it is not known why the phone caught fire, nor has the make or model of the phone been confirmed, CTV’s technology analyst Carmi Levy said occurrences of phones catching fire are becoming increasingly common.
“When it works, lithium-ion is a great technology for mobile devices but if the battery is damaged, if it runs hot, if there’s something wrong with the device… it could be, essentially, a bomb in your pocket,” he said.
Back in 2016, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was recalled due to exploding batteries. Just this week, passengers onboard a China Southern Airlines flight were forced to deplaned after a portable phone charger caught fire in an overhead bin.
Dan Adamus, of the Air Line Pilots Association, said single cellphone fires aren’t a particular risk for flights because they can be easily and quickly extinguished.
“The greater concern is when lithium batteries are shipped in mass quantities and shipped in the cargo hold,” he said.
“Particularly when they’re undeclared, that’s when they can -- if they catch fire, and they have -- taken down an aircraft.”