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Chemical Reaction Forces Evacuation Of Plane

February 4, 1988

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A toxic chemical stored improperly aboard an American Airlines jet heated up the floor and spread fumes through the cabin as the plane was landing, injuring at least 12 people, officials said.

The 119 passengers and six crew members on the Dallas-to-Nashville flight evacuated the MD-80 jet by emergency chutes upon landing at Metro Nashville Airport Wednesday, said American spokeswoman Susan Robbins.

Twelve people, including two airport firefighters, were treated at Donelson Hospital for smoke inhalation and four were admitted, two in serious condition, said Gloria Keel, a hospital spokeswoman.

″The cause of the problem was a toxic chemical that was improperly labeled in the cargo hold. It was labeled as laundry equipment and it turned out it was a chemical that should not have been on the plane,″ Ms. Robbins said.

She said the substance, stored in a cardboard container weighing 104 pounds, underwent a chemical reaction.

″It wasn’t a fire, but it caused a pungent odor and feelings of heat. It caused the floor of the cabin to get warm, and the flight attendants noticed it as they were coming in for a landing,″ Ms. Robbins said.

However, Capt. Harry White of the Metro Nashville Fire Department said a small fire burned some cardboard containers in the cargo hold and caused some structural damage to the plane. It was not known if the blaze was caused by the chemical reaction.

″It was in a contained area and likely consumed all the oxygen, so there were probably not the orange flames you’d typically associate with a fire,″ he said.

The fire was extinguished by the Metro Nashville Airport Authority’s firefighting team, White said.

Passengers also said there was smoke in the cabin. Firefighters had to chop a hole in the plane floor to douse the chemical with water.

Two firefighters, Michael Jackson, 28, of LaVergne, and John Duncan, 40, of Old Hickory, were both in good condition at Donelson, said Ms. Keel.

Passengers Nelma and Charles Alexander, both age 35 and of Ft. Campbell, Ky., were in serious but stable condition, she said.

Ms. Robbins said she could not confirm the identity of the chemical, the danger it presented nor who shipped it, saying only that it was sent from Austin, Texas, to Nashville.

The airline, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating how the chemical got in the hold, she said.

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