In Louisville, KY today, a Southwest Airlines plane that had not yet left the ground was evacuated on the runway, after one passenger’s Samsung smartphone caught fire. No injuries were reported.
Southwest said passengers and airline employees evacuated SW 994 destined for Baltimore, after a passenger reported “smoke emitting from a Samsung electronic device.”
Verge says the passenger whose phone caught fire is Brian Green and his phone was “a replacement Galaxy Note 7.”
“We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause,” Samsung said in a statement issued to reporters. “Once we have examined the device, we will have more information to share.”
The Verge spoke to Green earlier today. He confirmed that he had picked up the new phone at an AT&T store on September 21.
“A photograph of the box shows the black square symbol that indicates a replacement Note 7 and Green said it had a green battery icon.”
Green said that he had powered down the phone as requested by the flight crew and put it in his pocket when it began smoking. He dropped it on the floor of the plane and a "thick grey-green angry smoke" was pouring out of the device. Green’s colleague went back onto the plane to retrieve some personal belongings and said that the phone had burned through the carpet and scorched the subfloor of the plane.
He said the phone was at around 80 percent of battery capacity when the incident occurred and that he only used a wireless charger since receiving the device.
Homie replaced his phone with an iPhone 7. Authorities are investigating the incident.
The incident must have been terrifying for passengers on the flight. From the New York Times:
Christine Sundman, 65, a retired teacher who was planning to return home to New Hampshire after visiting her daughter’s family in Louisville, was one of the passengers evacuated from the flight. She said that a woman sitting near the phone’s owner had told her that the device had just been powered down when it caught fire.
The owner quickly dropped the device on the floor, Mrs. Sundman said in a phone interview.
Mrs. Sundman said she had been sitting in the seventh row of the plane and did not notice any commotion until a flight attendant rushed to the front to consult with her colleague. As they exchanged urgent whispers, Mrs. Sundman said, “I did hear the word ‘smoke.’ ”
The two flight attendants went into the cockpit, Mrs. Sundman said, and within seconds the captain came out and calmly told passengers that the plane had to be evacuated. She said he did not need to use the loudspeaker to make his voice heard.
As the passengers disembarked, the smell of smoke began to permeate the plane.
“I did not see any of the passengers lose control,” Mrs. Sundman said. “One woman was kind of buzzing around a lot, but nobody lost control. The airline was working as hard as it could.”