A Southwest Airlines flight from Cuba to Florida was forced to turn back to Havana for an emergency landing Sunday after hitting birds and suffering engine trouble in an incident that saw the cabin fill up with smoke, airline and Cuban officials said.
Southwest Airlines Flight 3923 had just taken off from Havana and was bound for Fort Lauderdale late Sunday morning when the plane was believed to have “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose,” a spokesperson for the airline said.
Pilots detected an issue with one of the plane’s engines following the bird strike, Cuba’s civil aviation authority, Cuban Aviation Corporation S.A., said. The airline did not immediately confirm the engine trouble.
Video captured from onboard the plane shows the cabin filling up with smoke as passengers begin to panic.
“Nobody could breathe. It was burning so much in the lungs,” one passenger, Marco Antonio, said on NBC’s “Early TODAY” show. “People were just screaming. Kids were screaming,” he said.
Pilots were able to land the plane safely in Havana and passengers had to evacuate the aircraft using airplane slides due to the smoke spotted in the cabin, the airline spokesperson said. They were then bussed to an airport terminal and were expected to be accommodated on another flight to Fort Lauderdale.
“We apologize to our Customers for the inconvenience and have reached out to address their needs and offer support,” the airline spokesperson said.
Cuba’s civil aviation authority said the plane’s passengers were all in good condition following the incident. It said the cause of the incident was being investigated.
Michelle Acevedo contributed.