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Police and fire

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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Crews respond to a potential fire that forced an emergency landing Friday at Fort Wayne International Airport.
Fire scare prompts emergency landing

Florida-bound jet detours to city

Minor injuries after quick exit on slide; cargo fire a mystery

– Beckie Seyller and her husband, Mark, were on their way to meet friends in Florida when their afternoon flight took a slight detour.

Allegiant Flight 959 to Punta Gorda, Fla., made an emergency landing at Fort Wayne International Airport at 1:24 p.m. Friday, less than an hour after leaving the South Bend airport.

Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, said a warning light indicated a potential fire in the cargo bay area. The plane was carrying 149 passengers and five crew members.

The emergency landing remained under investigation, Hinderman said, and no information was available about whether there had been a fire or whether the indicator light was an electrical error.

No serious injuries were reported, but a few passengers had minor cuts and scrapes from exiting the plane in a hurry, Hinderman said.

Beckie Seyller said their flight from South Bend Regional Airport took off about 12:40 p.m. and had been a fairly smooth ride until someone came over the loudspeaker to give emergency landing instructions.

“All the sudden, they came over the (sound) system and told us to put away our electronics and buckle our seat belts,” said Seyller, who lives in Elkhart. “I never smelled anything or noticed anything strange. We heard a noise and felt a vibration, but I thought maybe that was just the weather.”

After arriving in Fort Wayne, passengers and crew were evacuated from the plane on emergency slides within about 10 minutes of the plane landing, Hinderman said.

Joan Bock was holding Duffy, her small terrier, when she and the dog took a rather frightening ride down the inflatable slide.

“I don’t think he minded it too much, but I was a little worried,” Bock said. “There were no sides to the thing.”

Bock said emergency crews were waiting at the bottom of the slide to catch people as they rode down.

Passengers spent Friday afternoon in the airport’s waiting areas, awaiting information about when another plane would arrive to take them to their destination.

Shortly after 6 p.m., a plane departed from Bellingham International Airport in Washington state to pick up the stranded travelers and take them to Florida, according to Flightaware.com, a website used by airports to track flights.

The plane was expected to land in Fort Wayne about 10:15 p.m. before departing for Punta Gorda, Fla.

Bock’s husband, Jim, said he wasn’t pleased with the delay, especially because they were headed to Florida to escape the Indiana weather for a few months.

“I was hoping to be in Fort Myers in time for dinner,” he said. “Sure doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

jcrothers@jg.net

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