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Where There's Smoke There’s Panic

9 Passengers Injured When Smoking Engine Causes Panic on a Batavia Air Flight at Bali's Airport.

(12/9/2009) 9 passengers among 148 on board a Boeing 737-400 operated by Batavia Air sustained injuries requiring hospital treatment when panic ensued after large amounts of smoke spewed from one of the engines on start-up prior to push back at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport on Thursday, December 3, 2009.

The passengers on BTV701 fell victim to a bad morning following a dreadful night on what was to have been a direct flight from the East Java capital of Surabaya to Kupang on the island of Timor on Wednesday. However, the emergency "belly landing" of a Merpati Fokker 100 at Kupang on Wednesday, closed that airport for a number of hours causing the Batavia Air flight to divert to land in Bali.

According to the national news agency Antara, the passengers were disembarked in Bali and left to largely fend for themselves for an entire night at the airport. Snack boxes were reportedly supplied the passengers, but requests for meals and accommodation were rejected by Batavia Air staff who purportedly told the passengers that such compensation was only available when the delay was the fault of the airline.

When confirmation that the Kupang runway was re-opened the Batavia Air passengers were loaded for an 11:00 am departure for their original destination of Kupang. On board with seat belts buckled Captain Cholil Arief started engine No.1 without incident but when he engaged engine No. 2 accumulated fuel billowed into clouds of smoke that caused passengers to panic, open an emergency exit and begin leaping from the plane.

In the resulting shuffle and panic, 9 passengers suffered injuring which included broken legs that were treated at a local hospital.

Batavia Air insists that the smoke emitted from the engine was within normal operating parameters and certainly not the basis for evacuating the aircraft, an act that was never ordered by the cabin crew or the cockpit.

Separately, the Director General of Civil Aviation, Gerry Bhakti Singayuda, criticized the crew for failing to calm the passengers and maintain order on their aircraft.

The emergency slide on the Batavia Air B737-400 had to be refitted before the aircraft could return to service.