Sussex

Gatwick emergency landing passengers due to fly

Passengers disembark the plane
Image caption The Airbus A330-300 aircraft had 13 crew and 304 passengers on board

Passengers who were caught up in the emergency evacuation of a plane at Gatwick after smoke was reported in the cabin are continuing on their journeys.

More than 300 people had to exit the Virgin Atlantic aircraft using emergency chutes on Monday, as police, fire and ambulance teams stood by.

Fifteen people needed hospital treatment after the evacuation. Three remained in hospital overnight.

Other people who were on flight VS27 spent the night in an airport hotel.

Virgin said most of the 304 passengers who were on board the aircraft bound for Orlando in the US would be flying out on Tuesday after the airline arranged an extra flight for them.

It said it had been working around the clock to accompany customers to hospital, arrange care and overnight accommodation, and meet passengers' needs and support them.

Some passengers had chosen not to travel and were being helped with their luggage and their transport home, the airline said.

'Pile of bodies'

David Davis, from South East Coast Ambulance Service, said the injuries suffered by the 15 people were consistent with trauma.

He said: "What we found was around five patients with suspected broken arms and legs and another five with back and spinal pains.

"The other patients consisted of people with suspected broken ribs, chest injuries, pelvic and abdominal injuries."

After the evacuation, passengers described scenes of panic.

Passenger Tom Aldridge said: "The people panicking as they were jumping off were throwing themselves out of the plane down the chute and there was a big pile of bodies at the bottom where people were just landing on top of each other and there were quite a few injuries."

Describing how cabin crew appeared to react with alarm and with "high-pitched screaming", he said: "It wasn't until I had to go closer to the door that I realised it was actually Virgin cabin crew that were screaming hysterically 'get off, get off, get off as quick as you can, get off'."

On Tuesday, Virgin Atlantic issued a statement which said the airline was confident the crew executed the emergency procedures to a very high standard.

'Taught to shout'

Greg Dawson, director of communications at Virgin Atlantic, said the plane turned back to the West Sussex airport after the captain received an indicator in the cockpit.

He said: "There has been no suggestion of a fire on board, but we can't comment any further on our investigation until that's completed with the local authorities."

Image caption One passenger reported a pile of bodies at the end of the chute as people landed on top of each other

Mr Dawson responded to the reports of panic during the evacuation and said: "There were 304 passengers on board and in fact many of those passengers said the crew did do a good job.

"However, what I would say about the shouting is that this is part of procedure. Right across the industry, cabin crew are taught to shout instructions.

"That is for two reasons - firstly there can be a lot of noise on evacuation so they need to raise their voice, and secondly it can help to engage customers because some passengers can move into shock and not actually take action."

He added: "What I would say is that our crew are trained for months in these procedures.

"They have to come back every year for very stringent retraining on these matters. We take it extremely seriously."

He said every aspect of the incident was being investigated.

Some flights were cancelled or diverted after the emergency landing on Monday, but on Tuesday Gatwick said the airport was operating a full service with minor delays and passengers should check in as normal.

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