Fire from e-cigarette causes emergency landing for Indy-bound American Airlines plane

INDIANAPOLIS – A plane on its way to Indianapolis made an emergency landing in Little Rock Thursday after a passenger’s electronic cigarette caught fire.

"I started saying a prayer. That's all I could do and believe that we were going to land... and we made it," said Cindy Nelson, a passenger on the flight.

The plane, carrying 137 passengers, departed from Dallas around 12:50 p.m. and made the landing in Little Rock about an hour later, according to officials at American Airlines.

Officials said the passenger was attempting to use the cigarette in the airplane's bathroom, which started a fire.

The fire was put out with extinguishers and did not cause any injuries, according to American Airlines. The incident was reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"We saw the flight attendants frantically grabbing fire extinguisher." said Susan Karimi.

"There was just a lot of panic in the plane and we just really quickly realized that we were going to do a quick descent. We still didn't know what was going on and so we made the fastest descent I have ever experienced," said Nelson.

A replacement plane was sent to Little Rock to help passengers continue their flight to Indianapolis.

The TSA blog notes e-cigarettes, vape pens and other nicotine systems are permitted on planes, but the lithium batteries used in the devices are fire hazards and should not be packed in baggage.

According the FAA, "these devices are battery powered and have a heating element that vaporizes liquid."

FAA rules include:

  • Devices are prohibited in checked baggage and may only be carried in the aircraft cabin (in carry-on baggage or on your person).
  • They may not be used or charged on the aircraft.
  • When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or planeside, all electronic cigarette and vaping devices, along with any spare lithium batteries, must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin.
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