News

Supermodel caught up emergency flight diversion

  • Unscheduled visit: Joan Smalls, Puerto Rican fashion model
  • An Instagram post from Joan Smalls, Puerto Rican fashion model
  • The American Airlines aircraft at LF Wade International Airport after an emergency landing because of a fire scare (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • American Airlines passenger Murilo Elizabeth sleeps at the LF Wade International Airport yesterday (Photograph by Paul Johnston)
  • American Airlines passenger Maria Elizabeth sits at the LF Wade International Airport yesterday (Photograph by Paul Johnston)
  • American Airlines passenger Lucas Elizabeth sleeps at the LF Wade International Airport yesterday (Photograph by Paul Johnston)

A flight carrying more than 200 people, including supermodel Joan Smalls, was forced to make an emergency landing in Bermuda yesterday.

The American Airlines aircraft from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Brazil was suspected to have a fire in the cargo hold, and touched down at LF Wade International Airport shortly after 12.40am.

Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service helped to carry out an evacuation and a search of the plane, but said last night that no fire had actually taken place.

Skyport confirmed nobody was injured.

Ms Smalls, of Puerto Rico, who was the eighth highest-paid model in the world in 2013 according to Forbes magazine, documented her experience in a series of posts on social media yesterday.

She told her 2.6 million Instagram followers: “Just emergency landed in Bermuda.”

Yesterday afternoon, a family of four from Rio de Janeiro shared their experience on board the flight with The Royal Gazette.

Isabela Elizabeth, 23, said she began to hear “noises” less than two hours into the scheduled nine-hour flight.

She added: “The plane started to shake a little bit.”

Shortly after, the pilot came over the intercom to advise that there was a problem with a sensor and that an emergency landing was needed.

Ms Elizabeth said the pilot remained “calm”.

She added: “He emphasised many times it would be a safe landing.”

Ms Elizabeth said that a slight burning smell was evident in the aircraft shortly after the announcement was made.

She said the flight staff had “worried expressions” but that they “were dealing with situation calmly” as they inspected the plane’s emergency exits.

Ms Elizabeth described the landing as “very calm”.

She said the burning smell was much stronger as her family and the other passengers descended onto the tarmac through the rear cargo hold.

Ms Elizabeth, who was speaking to the Gazette at the airport, was aboard the flight with her parents, Murilo and Maria, and her brother, Lucas.

They were greeted on the ground by ten fire vehicles and 12 firefighters from the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service. The plane had 156,000lb of fuel on board.

Ms Elizabeth said there was lots of confusion inside the airport, and that there was only one American Airlines employee on scene.

She said that it was not until a few hours later, at about 4am, that they learnt another plane would not be coming.

Most passengers remained at the airport overnight and were rebooked on American Airlines scheduled flights to JFK and Miami this morning, although some chose to book into hotels and remain on the island while alternative flight arrangements were made.

Ms Elizabeth said they were given the option of going to a hotel for a couple of hours or waiting at the airport.

The family opted to stay put.

As of 1pm, they were preparing to take a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta.

Despite the delays, both mother and daughter were able to find some positives about their unexpected stopover in Bermuda.

Isabela said: “At least we have a wonderful beach to look at here, because if we didn’t I would probably freak out.

“The water is so blue.”

Maria added: “We know where we are coming for our next vacation.”