’A Scary Calm Situation’: Passengers Aboard SFO-Bound Flight Diverted Due to Laptop Fire Describe Harrowing Experience

JetBlue flight lands safely in Grand Rapids, Michigan; no injuries or damages reported

Passengers on a San Francisco-bound flight that was diverted to Michigan after a mid-flight emergency touched down safely in the Bay Area early Wednesday.

JetBlue Flight 915, an Airbus A321 flying from JFK International Airport in New York City to San Francisco International Airport, landed safely at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids about 8 p.m. local time after a lithium battery in a passenger's laptop sparked a fire, airport officials said.

"We’re at 35,000 feet and all of a sudden, we hear an announcement and we look back on row 25 and we saw everybody standing up, smoke coming around," Alan Honniball said. "We didn’t know what was going on.”

Ford International Airport

Recalling the unnerving experience, passengers said a crew member opened a storage bin and found a laptop in a backpack, emitting smoke. The flight attendant used the PA to inform passengers of the fire and started trying to douse the flames.

"It was a scary calm situation," Kailuy Honniball said. "It was like you’re in shock because you can’t really do anything. That’s how I would describe it."

Aviation expert Mike McCarron said in the rare case that a battery catches fire, it’s safer if the device is in the main cabin so a flight attendant can recognize the problem immediately.

"If the fire is in the cargo hold, all bets are off in that case," he said.

There were no injuries to the 158 people on board or damages to the plane, airport officials said.

The recent battery issues with Samsung phones and the laptop on Tuesday night's flight come amid growing terrorist concerns overseas. There are a handful of airports abroad where TSA officials require all personal devices be placed in checked baggage.

The big issue right now is to make sure there is nothing explosive in the equipment," McCarron said. "That’s why they’re looking at banning laptops from the aircraft. But there’s a way you can scan and search them that would prevent that hazard or reduce it a great deal."

JetBlue released a statement late Tuesday:

"On May 30, JetBlue flight 915 from New York’s JFK to San Francisco diverted to Grand Rapids, Mich., following reports of smoke emitting from a carry-on bag holding an electronic device. The flight landed safely and the aircraft is being inspected by maintenance crews before customers continue on to San Francisco."

Earlier this month, the TSA began a pilot program at about a dozen U.S. airports… not including SFO. In airports such as Los Angeles International and Chicago O'Hare, travelers may experience longer security lines due to the increased screening of devices.

NBC Bay Area's Michelle Roberts contributed to this report.

Contact Us