Four taken to hospital after battery catches fire during United flight

Four people were taken to the hospital after an external battery caught fire on a United Airlines flight bound for Newark on Tuesday.

Shortly after takeoff from San Diego International Airport on Tuesday morning, a customer’s battery pack ignited in a seatback pocket. According to the airline, crew members contained the blaze by placing the battery into a thermal containment bag while flight 2664 returned to San Diego where passengers and crew members recieved attention from medics and fire department officials.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said that it will investigate the incident.

According to the airline, four flight attendants were taken to the hospital as a precaution while two passengers were evaluated by medical personnel. The flight was headed for Newark, New Jersey, before the fire.

“We thank our crew for their quick actions in prioritizing the safety of everyone on board the aircraft and we are making arrangements to get our customers to their destinations,” United said in a statement reported by ABC News.

Anne-Marie Buckland, a passenger who was leaving San Diego after visiting her daughter, told KNSD that she was panicked when she saw the fire.

“I was sitting in that panic and I grabbed the girl next to me and we just really held on to each other,” Ms Buckland said. “And, I realized how much my family means to me, how much my children mean to me. So, I just prayed and I have faith that God wants me to have a beautiful life and there’s a lot more of it to come so, that kept me good.”

According to the FAA, lithium batteries, often used to power laptops, are prone to overheating and can emit toxic smoke. In December, a flight from Barbados to New York was forced to evacuate at John F. Kennedy Airport because of a smoking laptop, while another flight from California bound for Germany was forced to land in Chicago for a similar reason.

The FAA said that there were 57 incidents in total involving lithium batteries on planes in 2022, which provides a measure of insight into why the FAA more strictly regulates how those batteries can be transported.