KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Passengers aboard a Hawaiian Airlines jet bound from Maui to Oakland recall a strange smell in the cabin before the jet turned around and made an emergency landing at Kahului Airport Friday.
The airline said two passengers sustained minor injuries and were taken to a hospital for treatment. It's unknown exactly how they were hurt, but some passengers said they had some minor abrasions after using the evacuation slides to leave the aircraft.
Flight 24 had departed the airport at 11:18 a.m. Passengers said about a half hour into the flight, the crew declared an emergency and turned the Boeing 767-300 around because of what was described as a chemical smell in the cockpit.
Some passengers said the odor began before takeoff, and then went away. "But when we came back and landed, it was really bad, it was really strong," said passenger Davila Huber. "Kinda like rubber or a burning appliance."
Fire trucks were ready when the plane returned to the airport, but passengers still thought they would be returning to a gate. But instead, the jet stopped short of the terminal.
"If the plane was safe they would have just brought it up, and we would have gotten off at one of the (gates)," said Davila's husband, Dale Huber. "Then it was 'eject, eject, eject!' And at that point you just – you left."
"They told us to evacuate quickly, and everybody got up, and amazingly it went pretty smoothly," said passenger Don Ridenhour. "I mean, everybody was out of the plane pretty quick."
A total of 224 passengers and ten crew members were aboard the flight. They were led from the taxiway into the terminal after evacuating the plane.
Airport officials temporarily suspended operations for about an hour, causing some flight delays to and from Kahului.
In a statement, Hawaiian Airlines said safety is its highest priority, and that the airline was pleased by what it called the swift and decisive actions of the crew. Passengers HNN spoke with, agreed.
"I think so," said Dale Huber. "Something was going on. Better to turn around right now then to be two hours out over the ocean. There's not a lot of stops you can make."
The Hubers were among passengers who were booked to leave on another flight to Oakland Friday night. Hawaiian said it was finding accommodations for passengers who opted to spend the night on Maui. All affected passengers would also receive a refund.
An airline spokeswoman said the source of the odor remains under investigation. The plane itself remained parked at gate 17 Friday night.