Passengers tell of panic on fuel leak jet

Last updated at 09:10 04 April 2005

Holidaymakers who watched "gallons" of fuel gushing out from the wing of their plane as it prepared to take off told today how fellow passengers were preparing to storm the cabin if the flight was not halted.

Terrified passengers on a Phuket Air flight to London Gatwick taking off after a refuelling stop screamed in panic, demanding the plane be stopped after seeing the fuel pour out of a wing.

The terror came as the plane, originally from Bangkok, Thailand, prepared to take off at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates for the second time after an earlier fuel scare halted the planned take-off.

Arriving back at Gatwick Airport after being transferred to an Emirates flight, honeymooners Marcus and Charlotte Walsh, from Manchester, told of how the panic began on the initial take-off.

Mr Walsh, 28, said: "The fuel was just leaking off the end of the wing and one of the passengers stood up when we were at the end of the runway shouting 'Stop the plane, stop the plane'."

An engineer was called to sit beside the passenger and see the fuel for himself.

Passenger Dr Peter Hill, 46, from the Isle of Wight, told how the engineer's face just went "white" and the plane was stopped.

Rising temperatures

Others told how they sat initially on the plane without food or water with the temperature rising as workers used sticks to clear the excess fuel.

Eventually, after the passengers were taken off and then returned to the plane, the crew prepared to set off again.

Seventeen-year-old Harriet Packham, Dr Hill's niece, said: "When we got back on the plane everyone was just eyeing the window, everyone was just watching the window, watching for drips.

"There were a few drips at the beginning, then we turned around the corner to go on the runway and there was just loads, gallons of fuel came out, it was just terrible.

"We really didn't think that they were going to stop. All the air stewards were just saying 'Oh, calm down, this is normal'.

"All the information we got was in Thai."


Harriet, a pupil at Colyton Grammar School in Devon but who lives over the border in Somerset, added: "People were up and they were ready to storm the cabin and there are people still out there now."

Her uncle, Dr Hill, said that he personally spoke to the flight engineer before getting back on the plane and was reassured that everything was fine.

However, describing the scene as panic broke out, he said: "Fuel (was) gushing out of the wing, 70 people (were) hysterically shouting 'Stop the plane, stop the plane', which they did. If they hadn't, who knows."

Debbie Phillips, 45, from Northampton, said: "The panic in the plane... it was just a ripple... people were standing up, shouting, screaming, and in fear for their lives, it was awful."

Her husband, Steve, 47, said: "You had the feeling that if it had gone any further something definitely would have gone wrong."