HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Seven passengers were taken to hospitals Thursday after smoke filled the cabin and cargo hold of a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Oakland about 20 minutes before the aircraft made a dramatic emergency landing and evacuation at Honolulu’s airport.
In a statement released about 6 p.m Thursday, Hawaiian Airlines said it had determined the smoke was caused by a problem in the plane’s engine.
“We have since determined that a seal failed in the aircraft’s left engine, causing oil to leak onto hot parts of the plane’s engine and air conditioning pressurization system, resulting in smoke in the cabin,” said Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva, in an emailed statement.
He added that “the performance of the engine was not affected.”
Passenger Lucky Cara said the cabin filled with smoke “all of a sudden" on approach to Honolulu.
“I was scared. It just kept getting worse and worse, and there were a few people that were crying but they settled down,” said Cara.
She added that the evacuation was terrifying, but organized.
“There were a few little bumps and bruises from people coming down the slides more than anything," she said. "The gal sitting next to me when she came down she had a big rug burn from the slide.”
Passengers said flight attendants passed out wet cloths for people to breathe through.
The smoke “was really getting thick,” said passenger Linda Puu, adding that first responders were ready and waiting for the aircraft when it arrived.
“Something you think you’re never going to do but you go very fast and the firemen are down there catching you and helping you up,” she said.
Jon Snook, chief operations officer at Hawaiian, said the five adults and two children taken to hospitals were suffering from “smoke-related symptoms.” Their injuries did not appear to be severe.
Airport Fire Chief Glenn Mitchell said once the plane landed, there was very little smoke in the cabin area and no smoke in the cargo hold.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 47 landed at 11:36 a.m., some 20 minutes after the captain declared an in-flight emergency and notified airport personnel that there may be a fire on board.
A fire suppression substance was deployed in the cargo hold, and flight attendants donned masks.
Snook said the pilot did not drop oxygen masks for passengers because if there had been an active fire, oxygen would have fed the flames.
Some 184 passengers and seven crew members were on board the flight, an Airbus A321 neo with a 244-seat capacity. The plane left Oakland about 9:30 a.m. California time.
Once the plane landed on runway 4 Right, those on board evacuated using the airplane’s eight emergency chutes. During the evacuation, that runway was close but there were no other major disruptions at the airport.
Fire officials said it was heartening to see passengers evacuated in an orderly way and didn’t try to bring their luggage with them, a problem that’s been reported in other airplane emergencies.
Mitchell said all of the passengers were able to get out of the plane in about 30 seconds.
“People were orderly. The 30-second timetable is a great tribute to the airline and their staff in making sure the evacuation was done not only efficiently but safely,” Mitchell said.
Those who weren’t taken away by ambulances were shuttled to a debriefing area. They were slowly arriving at the airport’s baggage area by about 2:30 p.m.
The airline said passengers on board the plane would get a full refund of their round-trip ticket along with a travel voucher.
This story will be updated.