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The A330 Airbus was on route to London’s Heathrow but had to land in Boston's Logan Airport at about 8.50pm local time, less than an hour after it left JFK airport, “due to reports of smoke in the cabin.”
Massachusetts State Police said the crew extinguished the fire before landing and all 217 passengers were safely evacuated, though one passenger refused treatment for a smoke-related complaint. Bomb disposal officers found a device between the cushions of a seat where it had ignited.
BREAKING NEWS - State Police confirm to @wbz a Virgin Atlantic flight from JFK to London made an emergency landing here in Boston after a fire onboard. Initial clues point to a seat fire. Everyone is safe. Hear from a passenger on @wbz News At 11:00 - Image from Cory Tanner pic.twitter.com/pOAj5MgdBF— Chris (@ChrisNWBZTV) July 5, 2019
"Preliminary investigation suggests it is a battery pack consistent in appearance with an external phone charger," a police spokesman told reporters.
As reported by the BBC, one passenger, Maria, disputes that the fire had been caused by a charger. "It took about two minutes to put it out," she said.
Virgin said it was investigating the incident.
“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority and we are currently investigating to fully understand the circumstances,” a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said.
“We’d like to thank our customers for their patience as we work with them to provide local accommodation or to rebook alternative flights to their final destination.”
This isn't the first incident of a gadget causing a fire in a plane. One of the highly explosive Galaxy Note 7s went up in smoke when its owner was boarding Southwest Airlines 944 from Louisville to Baltimore in 2016, resulting in all passengers being evacuated and the flight’s cancelation. And in 2017, an exploding headphone battery burned a woman during a flight.
In March this year, the US banned lithium-ion batteries from passenger planes’ cargo holds, but they are still allowed in the aircrafts’ cabin.
Image credit: Craig Russell via Shutterstock