On Monday, 15 Virgin Atlantic passengers were injured when their plane had to make an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport and conduct an evacuation. Flight VS27 from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida was carrying 13 crew and 299 passengers at the time of the incident, which closed the airport for almost two hours.
The Virgin Atlantic flight had reached 20,000 feet over the Channel when there was a technical problem, forcing the plane to return to the airport and land after taking off just minutes before.The carrier said the captain decided to evacuate the aircraft right after landing on the runway as a precaution. The inflatable emergency slides were deployed and rescue teams met the passengers at the scene.
Virgin Atlantic said in a statement that their Gatwick Airport teams were offering full support, assisting with immediate requirements and looking after passengers. They are working closely with authorities to determine the cause of the incident. The welfare and safety of crew and passengers is their top priority, it added. Via Twitter, airline boss Sir Richard Branson apologised to all the passengers on Flight VS27. He said staff were doing all they could to look after everyone, and more information would be available soon.
Despite the airline saying at the time it wouldn’t comment on the cause of the incident prior to an investigation, West Sussex fire and rescue service said it sent six fire engines to the scene for a small fire on board a plane that had been reported at 12:21pm. However, this has yet to be officially confirmed.
Thousands of travellers at Gatwick Airport faced disruption due to the incident. Incoming services were diverted to other airports, while other flights bound for the airport were delayed from departing on their journeys. Flights were resumed at about 2pm using the emergency runway, but there was limited service and knock-on delays. When the main runway reopened at 3:23pm, full operations were restored. The airport said the emergency caused 26 delays and nine cancellations. As of Tuesday morning, there were still minor delays reported.
Holidaymakers have recalled the panic on Flight VS27 as the aircraft was forced to return to Gatwick Airport just 15 minutes into the flight and prepare for evacuation. A range of injuries were suffered by the passengers – from cuts to suspected fractures. Passenger Liam Morre said on the BBC website that everyone was really shaken up by the emergency landing and evacuation. Everything happened so fast, and some people were cut when they went down the chutes. There were police, paramedics, fire engines and a helicopter at the scene, he added.
Another passenger, Tom Alridge, claimed one of the cabin crew members panicked when the plane landed, saying she was screaming and “literally pushing people down the chute”. Some people had cuts and bruises, one hit his head and another had a broken ankle, he added. In a Facebook post, Tracy Anderson said her holiday with her husband and nine-year-old daughter didn’t get off to a good start. She wasn’t sure when they would be able to get on with their trip, as they could be delayed for a day. She added that she would chalk this up to an experience of life, though not one she wanted to repeat.
While three people spent the night in hospital, the others were put up in an airport hotel. Virgin Atlantic said that most of the passengers were due to fly for Orlando on Tuesday night after arranging for an extra service to take them. The carrier worked around the clock to accompany them to hospital, meet their needs and support them, as well as arrange accommodation. Those who chose not to travel were being helped with their bags and transport home, it added.
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