Southwest Airlines Flight Evacuated in Louisville After Smoke Reported in Cabin

A Southwest Airlines flight was evacuated Wednesday morning after a Samsung Note 7 phone started smoking in the cabin, passengers and crew say.

The crew on-board the Boeing 737 noticed the smoke while parked at a gate Louisville International Airport about 9:20 a.m., about 10 minutes before they were to depart for Baltimore, the FAA confirms.

"You hear about the phones having these issues, you wonder how likely is it to happen?" Brian Green said in Louisville, after he said his Samsung phone started smoking in his pocket. "You just never think those things are going to happen to you."

Wednesday morning Green said he was listening to instructions from the flight crew who were asking passengers to turn off Galaxy Note 7 phones.

"They asked everyone with a Note Seven to power down their phones, I was powering it down, I hit the button on the side, the menu came up, I shut down the phone, saw it was going through the power down cycle," he recalled.

"So I put the phone in my pocket, and within a few seconds I heard a pop, kind of like a Ziploc bag popping open," he said. "I looked around to see what was going on, and I had smoke just billowing out of my clothes and out of my pocket."

He said he took the still-smoking phone out of his pocket and quickly threw it on the floor, where it badly burned the carpeting and filled the cabin with thick smoke.

"It was probably filling up two rows in front of us, and two rows behind us, with pretty thick smoke," he said.

Green said it’s the first time he powered down the phone since he picked it up as a recall replacement phone a few weeks ago.

“Especially with this being a recalled device, or a replaced device, I should say, it’s definitely more concerning to me,” Green said.

All 75 passengers and crew of SWA Flight 944 to Baltimore were evacuated without incident and re-booked on other flights.

Wednesday afternoon at Dallas Love Field, the warnings about the Samsung Note 7 started at the gate.

"Folks, if you have a Samsung Note 7, we've all heard about those," said a Southwest gate agent over the speaker system. 

The warnings did not appear universal, though, with some gate agents making the announcement and others not.

"They specifically say, 'The Note 7s, you have to turn off,'" said passenger Scott Kupferberg, as he waited for his Southwest flight. "I don't think it's going to blow up the plane. It might catch the person who owns it on fire." 

In September, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission urged all consumers who own a Samsung Galaxy Note7 to power them down and stop charging or using the device after a number of the devices caught fire during charging or normal use.

In a statement Wednesday, Southwest encouraged all travelers to comply with the FAA Pack Safe guidelines -- which stipulate a product subject to a safety recall related to a hazardous material (battery) must not be carried aboard an aircraft or in baggage unless the recalled product/component has been replaced or repaired or otherwise made safe per manufacturer/vendor instructions.

Plenty of passengers at the airline's hub at Dallas Love Field want the TSA to begin refusing to allow passengers through security if they see a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone; and they want airline gate-agents to make an announcement saying those devices are banned from their flights.

They say Wednesday's incident is proof enough that the current policy doesn't keep passengers safe.

"If something goes wrong on a flight, there’s generally very little you can do to correct the situation. It’s going to be disastrous," said Dallas Southwest customer Vino Vitthala.

For nearly a month, Southwest gate-agents make an announcement asking passengers about to board on a flight to turn off their Galaxy Note 7 Phones.

"I personally think they should just ban the Galaxy 7 from all flights. They should at least come out and say, if you have a Galaxy 7 you can’t board the flight. That’s it," Vitthala said in Dallas, noting that it wouldn't be a fool-proof system but that it would make an immediate impact.

A Southwest spokeswoman told NBC 5 late Wednesday afternoon: “Safety is our top priority and we will continue to monitor this situation and follow the FAA guidelines.”

Spokeswoman Lori Crabtree added, “at this time, our Operations Agents will continue to make PA announcements in the gate areas during the boarding process and, prior to each flight, our Flight Attendants will continue to make announcements before leaving the gate regarding the Samsung recall.  

The FAA said it’s looking into NBC 5’s questions on whether its federal guidance to airlines will soon change.

Passengers also noted that when they go through TSA security there are no warnings or reminders about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone problems.

TSA Public Information Officer Carrie Harmon said it is an “FAA issue” and deferred questions to them.

The current FAA guidance says: “The FAA strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge”  the Galaxy Note 7 phones . The guideline also asks passengers not to put their Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones in checked luggage, either.

An FAA spokesman said there’s only been “two or three” incidents like this over the last month and that they are still investigating the flight 944 incident.

Samsung issued a voluntary recall and exchange program on certain Galaxy Note 7 devices with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The affected devices were sold in the U.S. before Sept. 15, 2016. To determine if your Galaxy Note 7 needs to be replaced, click here.

NBC 5's Noelle Walker contributed to this report.

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