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Official: Plane evacuation in California smooth despite slide malfunction

A Southwest Airlines plane sits it a gate on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 after passengers had to evacuate before takeoff because of a fire at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer says the blaze was in the airliner's auxiliary power unit and was extinguished with the plane's fire suppression system.

LEONARD ORTIZ/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: February 13, 2018

SANTA ANA, Calif. — One of four emergency slides failed to deploy during a fire on a Southwest Airlines jetliner, but the malfunction did not hinder an evacuation while the plane was on the ground at a California airport, officials said Tuesday.

All 139 passengers and five crew members made it safely off the Boeing 737 after smoke was reported just as the plane pushed back from the gate for takeoff, said Deanne Thompson, a spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

The blaze Monday evening was in the airliner's auxiliary power unit and was extinguished by the plane's fire suppression system, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

The unit provides power to start the aircraft's main engines and serves as backup power in some situations.

The flames were out by the time airport fire crews arrived minutes later, Thompson said.

She said the evacuation went smoothly on the three functioning slides. A few passengers reported minor scrapes but there were no serious injuries.

Southwest was investigating the incident, airline spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said.

The passengers were put on another plane to San Jose, which arrived shortly after midnight, Agnew said.

The evacuation forced a partial shutdown of a taxiway.

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