Southwest Airlines flight fills up with smoke, some oxygen masks fail to drop, witnesses say

Travelers describe what they witnessed during Sunday flight from Havana

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – After hugging her husband on Monday at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Jenny Gonzalez said that she panicked during a Southwest Airlines flight.

Witness videos show smoke filling the cabin during the flight that departed on Sunday from Havana to Fort Lauderdale, but didn’t make it to its destination.

The pilot was forced to return and make an emergency landing at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.

“Explosion! A lot of smoke. We couldn’t breathe,” Gonzalez said at FLL.

Birds struck the engine and the plane’s nose after takeoff, according to the airline. The plane landed safely after the scare and no one was injured.

“It was a big ‘BOOM!’ And we said, ‘What happened?’ Smoke started coming into the cabin, “ Janet Abbott said on Monday at FLL. “People were screaming not knowing what to do and we kept trying to breathe and it was filling up with more smoke. It was very acidy, very acrid.”

Several other Southwest Airlines passengers, including Daniel Medina, said that not all of the oxygen masks dropped down while the smoke spread before landing.

“Some of us had to punch the things to get the masks,” Medina said. “Thank God, we are alive.”

About the Authors:

Joseph Ojo joined Local 10 in April 2021. Born and raised in New York City, he previously worked in Buffalo, North Dakota, Fort Myers and Baltimore.

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.