Bali-Bound Lombok Flight in Runway Emergency

MATARAM

Cabin crew and passengers fled a Merpati plane that was about to take off from Lombok to Bali on Wednesday after panicking when thick smoke filled the cabin.

The incident occurred as cabin attendants were doing the pre-takeoff safety demonstration. They reportedly fled towards the emergency exits, sparking panic.

One passenger quoted on the news site Kompas.com, Widi Kurniawan, said: “The passengers were panicking. Children were screaming. A foreign man tried to break open the emergency exit but it only opened after about 15 seconds.”

He added: “The flight attendants were nowhere to be seen.” Passengers had jumped off the aircraft on their own initiative because cabin crew were not giving directions.

Kurniawan said he had initially not been concerned because he thought it was just mist coming from the overhead air-conditioning vents.

State-owned Merpati Nusantara flies ATR 72-212 twin-turboprop aircraft on the Bali-Lombok shuttle. Wednesday’s emergency was on flight MZ 6601, the 7am service from Mataram to Denpasar.

Airline official Lia Handayani said in Mataram after the incident: “The smoke was caused by a short circuit in the cockpit. Our technicians are looking into it.”

Merpati said no one was injured in the incident and passengers were flown to Denpasar later in a different aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Committee, which is responsible for aircraft safety, said it would clarify the incident with Merpati and decide later whether to send a team of investigators to Mataram.

Merpati has a poor safety record, including an incident in April when one of its Boeing 737 aircraft ran off the runway at Manokwari in Papua, injuring 20 people. Investigators later found 20 irregularities in relation of regulations and flight safety.

In May the minister of transport appointed a new board and told it to clean up the airline’s act. The carrier is heavily indebted and earlier this month received a fresh multimillion-dollar loan to purchase Chinese-made aircraft.

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