TSB investigating after dramatic emergency evacuation on WestJet flight in Nanaimo


WATCH: Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board were at the Nanaimo Airport on Wednesday. They’re looking into an incident that unfolded Tuesday afternoon. A WestJet flight from Vancouver was forced into an emergency evacuation after the plane’s cabin filled with smoke shortly before landing. Kendall Hanson reports.

Transportation Safety Board investigators were at Nanaimo’s airport Wednesday, examing a Bombardier-made WestJet turboprop.

On Tuesday, those on board the plane had a flight they will likely never forget.

Just before landing at the Nanaimo Airport, passengers realized something was wrong.

“Last four or five minutes of it I started smelling smoke,” said Robin Thacker, a passenger.

Some announcements on the intercom soon followed the smell of smoke.

“I don’t want to cause you any alarm but we do have a smoke indication in the cabin,” one of the announcements said.

The 56 passengers aboard were told to breathe through their clothing.

“So now it was real. Now it was a situation,” said Thacker. “We’re still not over land so it was getting a little more concern [ing] then.”

After landing, there were no obvious signs where the smoke was coming from and tensions remained high among the passengers.

People scrambling from the plane’s front and rear exits. Many had to be helped from the aircraft before running away from the plane.

Thacker says the WestJet crew did a great job.

“And I think that’s what kept everybody calm because they were talking to us,” said Thacker. “Communicating. Letting us know ‘the guys in the front are doing this. The pilots are aware of it. We don’t know where the source is.'”

But there is no oxygen mask on lower-lying turboprops.

Thacker says that raises a safety concern.

“So what do you do in a flight when smoke is there and you don’t have a form to stop the smoke? What do you do?” asked Thacker. “This is a short flight, great. We’re fine. We’re in it for two or three minutes. What happens on a one hour flight and it happens on the beginning or something?”

The Transportation Safety Board says they’re trying to determine the cause of the smoke and whether any alterations to the planes are needed.

Thacker says he was impressed by how passengers reacted and dealt with the emergency in what he called a very Canadian fashion.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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