‘I was terrified’: Southwest flight makes emergency landing, explosion-like boom as engine catches fire after bird strike

Southwest Airlines Flight 3923 had just departed Havana, Cuba on Sunday for Florida when it evidently struck birds, causing an explosion-like boom as one of the engines caught fire and the cabin filled with smoke resulting in passengers panicking.

(Video Credit: WPLG Local 10)

Making things even worse, the oxygen masks did not immediately drop from the ceiling. Passengers pounded on the ceiling to get them to drop during the emergency.

Footage from onboard the aircraft shows terrified passengers engulfed in smoke as parents tried to help their children breathe.

A passenger named Steven Rodriguez told NBC 6 that there was “a big boom, like an explosion” before smoke filled up the cabin and the emergency lighting came on.

Rodriguez described the encounter, stating, “It was like a burn smell, and it was hurting my face. My eyes got real red. My chest started to burn.”

He claimed that the oxygen masks were of little use, “People started taking matters into their own hands and by force were punching the roof to eject the masks. And people had bloody knuckles and all because they were punching the roof. There were little kids on the plane and elderly women.”

Rodriguez thought his time had come, “To be honest, I thought it was my time to go. I was terrified.”

“Nobody could breathe,” another passenger added, according to the Washington Examiner. “It was burning so much in the lungs. People were just screaming. Kids were screaming.”

Passenger Jorge Montesino told NBC 6 that when he saw the engine on fire, he immediately texted his wife and told her to tell their kids he loves them. Montesino and many others onboard feared the worst.

The female pilot made an emergency landing at Cuba’s Jose Marti Airport. She brought the plane down safely with only one engine working on the Boeing 737. None of the 147 passengers or crew were injured during the heart-pounding incident.

The captain was praised and applauded by the passengers.

“The female captain was incredible,” Montesino declared. “With only one engine, the left engine, she was able to turn the plane around and land safely.”

Radio Rebelde, which is the state-run media outlet in Cuba, reported that the country’s aviation department blamed the incident on “detected failures in one of its engines during the takeoff process.”

“CACSA indicated that the causes that originated said event are being investigated and highlighted that, at this time, the airport facility maintains its regular operations,” Radio Rebelde noted.

Southwest Airlines gave a statement to CNN, telling the media outlet that they will “review the aircraft to assess the damage but do not have additional details to share at this time.”

A few were able to snag a seat on another airline heading for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Most had to stay in a hotel in Havana paid for by Southwest Airlines. The company also reportedly gave each passenger a $300 voucher for the inconvenience.

“Southwest flight #3923 departing Havana, Cuba, for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Sunday morning experienced bird strikes to one of the engines and the aircraft’s nose shortly after takeoff. The pilots safely returned to Havana where the 147 Customers and six crew evacuated the aircraft via slides due to smoke in the cabin, Southwest Airlines said in a statement to the Daily Mail.

“The Customers and Crew were bussed to the terminal and are being accommodated on alternative flights to Fort Lauderdale. We commend the swift, professional actions of our Pilots and Flight Attendants in responding to this event. We apologize to our Customers for the negative experience, extending compensation for the inconvenience and offering additional support,” the statement continued.

This is just one of a number of chilling incidents that have occurred on American flights recently, including a Lufthansa flight that dropped 4,000 ft. with Matthew McConaughey’s wife Camila Alves on board. A Delta Airlines flight from JFK also had to make an emergency landing in February after takeoff with flames shooting out from underneath a wing.

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