A man from Texas and his kids were excited about visiting Disney World, but their magical dream vacation might have turned into a tragic nightmare, were it not for a good Samaritan and some quick-thinking passengers and crew members.
Catastrophe was narrowly averted on Wednesday after a fire broke out in mid-air aboard a Spirit Airlines flight en route from Dallas, Texas, to Orlando, Florida, sending ten to the hospital and rendering a Texas dad super grateful. Fort Worth, Texas, dad Joseph Fleck was traveling to Orlando with his kids, and the family was looking forward to heading to Disney World. But their Disney adventure would first take them to north Florida after the in-flight emergency forced the pilot to divert to Jacksonville International Airport (JAX).
Fleck and his children were traveling from the Lone Star State via Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW) to Orlando International Airport (MCO) to visit Mickey and the gang at the Walt Disney World Resort on Spirit Airlines Flight 259 when they and fellow passengers began to notice smoke coming from an overhead compartment on the plane.
Fleck tweeted about the incident, saying, “We are safe after a scary fire broke out during our @SpiritAirlines flight. We made a quick descent and emergency landing into Jacksonville. After waiting for over an hour, they grounded the plane, and we had to find our own way to Orlando. All rental cars were sold out. $250 Uber.”
We are safe after a scary fire broke out during our @SpiritAirlines flight. We made a quick decent and emergency landing into Jacksonville. After waiting for over an hour they grounded the plane and we had to find our own way to Orlando. All rental cars were sold out. $250 uber pic.twitter.com/miFrR2bPKq
— Joseph Fleck (@nottajshow) March 1, 2023
According to a statement from Spirit Airlines, Flight 259 had to be diverted to Jacksonville International after a battery fire erupted inside a passenger’s item in the overhead compartment. Spirit said the fire was extinguished while the plane was still in flight.
Once the plane landed at JAX, the pilot taxied to the terminal. Captain Eric Prosswimmer, a spokesperson for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, said that ten passengers and crew members were hospitalized following the ordeal. Thankfully, their injuries were not life-threatening.
“We thank our crew and Guests for their quick actions to ensure the safety of everyone onboard, and we thank first responders for meeting the aircraft,” the statement from Spirit Airlines continued. “We are arranging alternate transportation for our Guests from Jacksonville to Orlando.”
Rocco Chierichella, a retired New York City firefighter, and his wife were on Flight 259 as well.
“It was starting to drop altitude, and somebody yelled, ‘fire!’” Chierichella recalled.
He and several crew members worked to extinguish the fire onboard. But even heroes get hurt, and Chierichella ended up with burns on some of his fingers.
“Smoke was billowing out of [the overhead bin],” Chierichella said. “And what it was, was a battery-powered vape tied to a battery charging inside the compartment. Very dangerous. And it ignited a piece of luggage next to it.”
The fire is believed to have been caused by a vape pen charging in flight, as part of the charging mechanism includes a lithium battery, which are notorious for being highly combustible and, therefore, they aren’t always welcome on airplanes.
Fleck says the fumes inside the airliner were “terrible,” and that it became very difficult to breathe because of them and the smoke that filled the cabin. Once everyone was safe, there was even a small celebration onboard.
“Everyone calmed down a bit, and we all clapped,” Fleck explained.
The happy Disney dad tweeted a short video of the family arriving on Walt Disney World property on Thursday, saying he was grateful, as the family’s “lives flashed before our eyes for a few seconds yesterday.”
— Joseph Fleck (@nottajshow) March 2, 2023
Surely as a parent, there was nothing scarier than being 35,000 feet in the air and smack dab in the middle of an emergency, especially with your kids. So we’re hoping that nothing delighted Fleck’s heart like finally making it to the Most Magical Place on Earth with his kids.
— Joseph Fleck (@nottajshow) March 2, 2023
Fleck tweeted about the compensation he received, saying, “Spirit has issued me a full refund, $100 future travel voucher, food vouchers and reimbursement for the $200 Uber to Orlando. This was no fault of Spirit, they handled things with great respect. I only wish we had been able to evacuate the plane once we landed.”
After a really scary ordeal, Fleck says he and his family had “the best Disney day ever” and that it was “a great way to forget about Wednesday.”
We had the best disney day ever. A great way to forget about Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/VfeZ4I5NEm
— Joseph Fleck (@nottajshow) March 3, 2023
It sounds like he and his kids were well on their way with their magical dream visit to Disney World. Don’t you love it when stories end like this? We do too! Here’s wishing Joseph and his family the most magical visit ever at the Most Magical Place on Earth, and God bless them on their journey home!