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Southwest flight to Fort Lauderdale diverts after fight leads to smoldering cell phone

The Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale had to be landed in Pensacola. Local 10 News spoke exclusively with one of the passengers.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Passengers on a flight from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale made an unexpected stop Wednesday afternoon because of a fight and a smoldering cell phone.

Parkland native Katie Engleson tells Local 10 News she was on the flight and sitting near a man and woman who started arguing.

“It was definitely very, very frightening,” Engleson recalled.

Passengers on the flight tell Local 10 News that the woman struck the man with a cell phone, and that the phone then started smoking.

“Everyone kind of went crazy and then all of a sudden we see smoke and I heard the words ‘fire’ and then next to us there was the object literally smoking,” Engleson said.

The plane was diverted to Pensacola before eventually heading to Fort Lauderdale a few hours behind schedule.

Southwest Airlines confirmed the incident in a statement, saying:

“A Southwest flight operating from Dallas Love Field safely diverted to Pensacola International Airport on Wednesday afternoon due to a dispute between two passengers traveling together that resulted in a broken cell phone which smoldered and was placed into a battery containment bag by our Flight Attendants. After the two passengers exited the aircraft in Pensacola, the flight continued to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. We appreciate the patience, cooperation, and support of the customers onboard today.”

Engleson applauded how the Southwest Airlines crew handled the situation.

“They truly made everyone feel super safe, and I can not be more grateful for how the situation ended,” she said.

Local 10 News is working to find out the relationship between the man and woman and if they were arrested or charged after deboarding the plane.

About the Author:

Parker Branton joined Local 10 News in January 2019 as a reporter. He was born and raised in Rome, Georgia, but now loves living on the sunny beaches of South Florida.