Southwest Airlines flight to Florida fills with smoke, returns to Cuba


March 6, 2023 | 5:38 am

Passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight from Cuba to Fort Lauderdale, Florida erupted in panic and chaos after the jetliner was forced to make an emergency landing following a bird strike.

Shortly after takeoff from Havana, smoke began to fill the cabin of Flight 3923 after birds reportedly hit one of the aircraft’s engines and nose.

The Boeing 737 had 147 passengers and six crew members on board and the pilot was able to return the flight safely to Havana. No injuries were reported, Southwest Airlines told The Guardian.

In shocking mobile phone footage recorded in the cabin, some passengers desperately try to beat the ceiling of their seats to release their oxygen masks as smoke overwhelms worried travelers.

Screams, panic whispers from adults and the cries of a child are heard as passengers have no idea what’s going on, with one traveler describing hearing a “boom” before smoke began to fill the cabin.

Several passengers reported that their masks failed to fall when smoke began to fill the cabin.
Some passengers reportedly beat their knuckles bloodily on the roof to make their masks come down.

After the plane landed safely at Marti Airport, passengers were seen using the plane’s emergency slide to disembark, while emergency personnel waited nearby.

Another video showed the crowd of passengers walking disoriented on the tarmac, many coughing profusely and still screaming from the chaos.

When asked what led to the horrific incident, a passenger recalled hearing “a big bang.” Like an explosion.”

“To be honest, I thought it was my time to go,” Steven Rodriguez told NBC 6. “I was terrified.”

Several passengers on the flight to Fort Lauderdale said their air masks on the plane did not go off as smoke filled the cabin.

“People started taking matters into their own hands and violently pounded the roof to eject the masks,” Rodriguez said. “And people had bloody knuckles and everything because they hit the roof. There were small children on the plane and older women.”

Another passenger, Jorge Montesino, said he witnessed the plane’s engine fire, prompting him to immediately text his wife and children to convey his love for them.

When the plane landed safely, though still disoriented, the passengers clapped and cheered for the pilot.

“The female captain was incredible,” Montesino told the outlet. “With only one engine, the left engine, she was able to turn the plane around and land safely.”

Firefighters spray the plane’s engine on the tarmac after the plane’s emergency landing.

“We commend the prompt, professional actions of our pilots and flight attendants in responding to this event. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and have reached out to address their needs and provide support,” Southwest said in a statement about the incident.

Radio Rebelde, Cuba’s state media, reported that the plane “discovered defects in one of its engines during takeoff,” citing Cuban Aviation Corporation SA (CACSA).

CACSA said an investigation is ongoing and the airport would continue operations as usual, CNN reported.

Southwest Airlines said the company would “assess the aircraft to assess the damage, but has no additional details to share at this time” when asked about the reported engine failure.

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