25 Hurt After Smoke Causes Panic on Jet

Associated Press

Some of the 462 passengers awaiting takeoff on a jetliner apparently were panicked Thursday by smoke coming from a light fixture, and 25 suffered minor injuries when evacuating the plane, officials said.

The Boeing 747 charter was ready to leave Detroit Metropolitan Airport for Las Vegas when “a fluorescent light ballast behind a sidewall panel failed, (and) smoke from the failure entered the passenger cabin,” Walter H. Johnson, executive vice president of National Airlines, which operated the charter, said by phone from New York.

The ballast regulates energy going to the fixture’s light-producing gas.

“A man came on the intercom and said we had a fire and we should get off the airplane,” passenger Larry Oehmke, 21, said.


“The passengers in the rear, when they heard there was a fire, you could hear them panic,” said Dan Dell, 29, of Lansing, another passenger.

Johnson said that the captain of the airliner ordered the evacuation as a precaution. “There was no fire or damage . . . to the airplane. It appears the evacuation was unnecessary,” he said.

The plane carried 462 passengers and a crew of 19, Johnson said. Officials at nearby hospitals reported treating 25 persons for minor injuries, mostly lumps, bumps and scrapes.

Johnson said that passengers in the rear cabin exited down inflated slides because the plane’s rear boarding ramp had been removed.