A Red Deer couple was on a flight bound for Calgary, when it was diverted to Memphis on Tuesday evening after the pilot declared mayday.
Shawna Phillips said she and her husband boarded Sunwing Flight WG596 on Tuesday afternoon in Cancun, Mexico. After about an hour and a half in the air, a flight attendant got on the intercom and said “fire extinguisher, fire extinguisher to the front.”
Luckily, it turned out to be a false alarm, but the Red Deer couple, sitting in row 28, did not know it at the time. Neither did the crew.
The pilot then came on the intercom and said “rapid descent” and “mayday,” and asked passengers to put their seat belts on.
Then he “nose dived” for about eight minutes, dropping the plane from about 26,000 feet in about eight minutes.
Phillips was scared for her life and her heart was racing. She said panic and confusion led to babies crying and adult passengers screaming and sobbing.
“We were crying, and I hugged my husband and said, ‘if this is it, I love you.’
“We didn’t really know. It was really traumatizing,” she said.
About eight to 10 minutes into the rapid descent, the pilot made another announcement, informing those on board it was a false alarm.
“(Until then), we didn’t know what was happening,” she said, given the fact they were in the back rows, and the commotion was toward the front of the plane.
By this time, the pilot had dropped fuel, and the flight had to land in Memphis.
Sunwing confirmed in a statement the flight had to make an emergency landing due to reports of smoke in the cabin.
“It is believed that a passenger’s vape pen may have been discharged accidentally on board the aircraft. All passengers and crew members are safe, and there appears to be no damage to the aircraft,” said the airline.
“As the investigation into the emergency landing is ongoing, we do not have any additional details that we can share at this present time.”
Phillips does not believe the airline should allow vapes.
In Memphis, the couple, along with other passengers, was welcomed with pizza, air mattresses and blankets. The couple landed in Calgary early Wednesday.
“So grateful everything is OK,” Phillips said, adding she has been on planes several times, and has experienced the occasional turbulence, but nothing compared to this.
“I said to my husband, ‘we’re not planning (another trip) for a while now.’ I didn’t want to get on another plane.”