Passenger Broke Elbow Using Slide During Alaska Airlines Evacuation

On August 23rd, 2021, an Alaska Airlines flight from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) to Seattle Tacoma International (SEA) experienced a cell phone fire onboard leading to the deployment of the aircraft’s evacuation slides. Nearly a full year has passed and the National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the incident, which saw one “serious” injury, in addition to three minor injuries.

Incident background

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900, registered N479AS, had just performed flight AS751 from New Orleans to Seattle and was on the ground when a passenger’s smartphone caught fire. When the incident arose, the aircraft was waiting to move into a gate, having taxied to the apron.

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An official airline statement notes that “a passenger’s cell phone … overheated and began sparking,”

Cabin crews acted quickly and extinguished the fire. What remained of the device was put into a containment bag. However, smoke that had already emanated from the device, in addition to a strong smell, forced the evacuation of the aircraft via slides.

The NTSB report states:

“Even though an overheated passenger cell phone was put into a battery containment bag (BCB) by the cabin crew, a large amount of smoke remained in the cabin with a strong acrid smell. As a result, the captain commanded an evacuation on taxiway A spot 6A at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport … “

Citing the airport as a source, The Aviation Herald notes that the smartphone that triggered the incident was a Samsung Galaxy A21.

NTSB report details

While we had already covered this story quite soon after the incident took place, the NTSB report has a few additional details.

11 months in the making, the final report discloses that one passenger incurred a serious injury while three others sustained minor injuries. With the NTSB notes that “one passenger broke their elbow while descending on the evacuation slide, “ With this being the only injury mentioned in the report, it is presumed that this was the one categorized as serious.

Injuries during evacuation

According to SKYbrary, over 80% of reported injuries while using emergency slides are categorized as minor injuries. The website adds that the most serious evacuation-associated injuries have been the result of jumping out of exits or off of wings.

Common slide-related causes of injury include:

  • Friction from slide surface
  • Impact with the ground at the bottom of the slide
  • Falling forward onto the pavement after reaching bottom of the slide
  • Assisting other passengers with exiting the slide at the bottom
  • Anxiety from evacuation

Typical minor injuries include sprains, scrapes, abrasions and contusions while more serious damage can include fractured or broken bones as well as major bruises and lacerations.

Have you ever had to use an emergency slide before? Share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Sources: The Aviation Herald, NTSB, Skybrary

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