PARIS – Panicked passengers scrambled and pushed to the emergency exits of an Airbus 320 preparing to carry 165 passengers from Paris to a vacation city in Spain after an engine suddenly caught fire Wednesday, a passenger said.
Eight passengers had chafed skin from using the emergency exit slides and were treated by airport personnel after the incident at Orly airport, Vueling airline and French police said. Some passengers were treated for shock.
Vueling Flight 9127, was preparing to leave for Alicante in southeastern Spain when the fire occurred at 10:36 a.m.
"Before getting out, everybody was panicking inside the plane. When people heard about the incident, everybody was pushing each other to get out and eventually everybody went down the emergency slides," Arantza Urrejola, 38, a passenger told Associated Press Television News.
The fire broke out as the plane was disengaging from the boarding ramp, said Helen Courcoul, chief of staf at the Val de Marne prefecture.
Jose Luis Casado, a representative of the Spanish carrier Iberia, which owns nearly half of Vueling, said that a ground employee spotted liquid leaking from one of the engines as it was starting. The employee sounded an alert, but the fire broke out soon after.
The decision was made to use the emergency slides and not wait for the boarding ramp to be put back in place to evacuate the passengers, Casado said.
"Of course, it is a very spectacular procedure because we use the emergency slides, we make the usual announcements, asking people to take off their shoes and leave their luggage on board the plane. It's quite a traumatic experience for the passengers," Casado told APTN.
Firemen rushed to the scene and quickly put out the blaze. There was no damage to airport facilities or to other nearby aircraft.
The incident follows two high-profile Airbus plane crashes on Paris flights. A Yemenia airlines Paris-Comoros flight crashed June 30 off the coast of the Indian Ocean island nation, killing 152 people; the plane was an Airbus 310. An Airbus 330 crashed into the Atlantic en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, killing all 228 people onboard the Air France flight.
Airbus said it had received a report on the latest incident and was offering the airline customer support.
The majority of passengers boarded a replacement plane Wednesday afternoon that had arrived from Alicante to take them to their destination. France's LCI television reported that several passengers declined to board.