- A recording has emerged in which a British-sounding pilot complained of ‘toxic gas type fumes’ on the aircraft
- British Airways said 22 cabin crew members and three pilots were taken to hospital as a precaution
- A further two passengers were checked by medics, but did not need further assistance
- BA says it is investigating the cause of the incident, but declined to reveal what symptoms its staff were suffering from
- Passengers on the flight were told there was a technical fault and crew members were unwell
A pilot on a London-bound British Airways flight which was forced to make an emergency landing in Vancouver complained of ‘toxic fumes’ on the aircraft, it has emerged.
The Airbus A380, which had left from San Francisco, had to turn around after staff members fell ill.
In an audio recording obtained by ABC News a pilot, having been asked what the problem was by air traffic control, responded: ‘Toxic fumes, toxic gas type fumes’.
Pictures from Canada show the plane being escorted by emergency services in Vancouver
The airline has remained tight-lipped about the cause of the emergency, which happened on a flight with more than 400 passengers on board.
A statement from BA simply said: ‘We are investigating, and this will form part of our investigation.’
A spokesman told MailOnline that no further aircraft have been grounded, and the emergency is currently being viewed as an isolated incident.
It is not the first time concerns have been raised about fumes on BA passenger planes. A former BA pilot, Richard Westgate, instructed lawyers to take action against the airline before his death in 2012, at the age of 43.
He claimed his health problems were related to exposure to toxic chemicals on board the planes he flew.
The route taken by the flight after the medical emergency was reported
According to online reports, posted by an individual claiming to have heard the full exchange, the pilot said 11 crew members were ‘directly affected’ by the fumes.
A short time after, this number was relayed as ’11 to 12′.
It was agreed that a ‘fumes on aircraft’ procedure would be carried out on arrival. It is thought the pilot may have been wearing an oxygen mask.
The company has launched an investigation into the mystery illness, which saw 22 cabin crew members and three pilots taken to hospital.
Initial reports suggested that crew, pilots and passengers on board the Airbus A380 suffered from smoke inhalation when they were rushed to hospital by emergency vehicles waiting on the runway.
The airline has said that no other aircraft are affected, and none of the rest of its fleet has been grounded in the wake of the unexplained incident.
The airline said the plane made the unscheduled stop because staff members had been taken unwell.
The airline and health officials have declined to reveal what symptoms the patients were suffering from.
BA said 22 cabin crew members and three pilots were taken to hospital for medical checks as a precaution, and have since been discharged.
A further two passengers were seen by medics, but did not suffer any injuries, BA has confirmed.
A paramedic boards the plane after it landed in Vancouver, as passengers were told a technical fault was to blame for the flight being diverted
One passenger told ABC News: ‘People started panicking, there was a woman in the seat next door to us crying.’
Steve Lowy, who was on the flight, said no explanation for the sudden diversion had been given.
The 35-year-old, who was returning from a two day business trip in San Francisco, told MailOnline: ‘They said there was a potential technical fault and crew members were feeling unwell.’
Mr Lowy, who was on the top deck of the plane, said it was initially set to land in Calgary, but the size of the aircraft meant it had to divert to Vancouver.
Despite the uncertainty, he said passengers remained calm, stating: ‘We were all very British, we were wondering what had happened, and whether they had suffered food poisoning.
‘We were very high up in the air and we weren’t in control of the situation, it was just a bit weird.
‘People wanted to know a bit more information, but I don’t think all the crew knew what was going on.
‘After they mentioned a fault, people did start coughing a bit, there was a lot of activity.’
He said he did not see any smoke on the plane, or smell burning.
Despite the confusion, Mr Lowy praised the crew for the professional manner they handled the situation.
He said: ‘I think the crew did what they could, especially as their colleagues weren’t feeling very well. It would be nice to know what actually happened though.’
The Airbus A380 took off around 7pm local time on Monday and landed in Vancouver several hours later.
The airport’s official Twitter account confirmed that medical staff were on hand to assist patients
Passengers on Flight BA 286 from San Francisco to London told how firefighters in full respirators came onto the plane after it was diverted to Vancouver Airport.
Liz Keller, from London, tweeted: ‘Passengers on #ba286 pretty much totally in the dark about what happened on board or what comes next.
THE BA PILOT WHO DIED AT 43 AND CLAIMED TOXIC FUMES ON PASSENGER PLANES WERE TO BLAME
BA pilot Richard Westgate died in 2012 at the age of 43
A British Airways pilot who died at 43 complained he was being poisoned by toxic fumes on passenger planes.
Richard Westgate, from Edinburgh, suffered years of ill health including severe headaches, mental confusion, sight problems and insomnia before he died in December 2012.
Just before he died, he instructed lawyers to sue BA for health and safety breaches, convinced his problems were related to his being exposed to toxic chemicals on board the planes he flew.
Although the inquest into Mr Westgate’s death is yet to be heard, Dorset Coroner Sheriff Stanhope Payne last year wrote to BA and the Civil Aviation Authority to voice concern about the evidence he had heard.
Last year the Unite union called for a public inquiry into contaminated cabin air, opening a dedicated legal unit to record and process claims from members.
Lawyer Frank Cannon, who was instructed by Mr Westgate before his death, said: ‘We believe that constant exposure to fuel leaks in planes contributed to Richard’s death.
‘This scientific research proves that Richard suffered from chemicals called organophosphates which cause chronic brain and other problems.
‘This happens because of constant exposure working aboard aircraft.’
When the case became public, a BA statement said: ‘It would be inappropriate to comment or speculate on the cause of death of an individual.
‘The safety and security of our customers and crew are of paramount importance to British Airways and will never be compromised.’
‘Not reassuring to see firefighters with respirators walking aisles and only be told the crew was taken ill. And have been told we need to book our own return flights.’
The jet can hold 469 passengers but BA did not say exactly how many were on board.
Passengers have been put up in hotels and will be rebooked on other flights.
A statement from British Airways said: ‘We are sorry for the delay to our customers’ flight but the safety and well being of our customers and crew is always our top priority.
‘The flight from San Francisco diverted to Vancouver after members of the cabin crew became unwell.
‘Our ground team at Vancouver has arranged hotel accommodation for the customers and will book them on alternative flights as soon as possible.’
A company spokesman told MailOnline: ‘It was a medical diversion. I’ts still being investigated.’
He said the cause of the emergency has not been determined. He continued: ‘Every report of smoke or fumes is pure speculation.’
BA has confirmed it will be carrying out the investigation itself.
A spokesman said: ‘We’ve not said at any point that the entire crew has been taken ill, we said they have been checked as a precaution and discharged.’
Ten patients were rushed to Richmond Hospital, while another 10 went to the Vancouver General Hospital, and another five went to the Delta Hospital, CBC reports.
Laura Kohli, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health hospitals, said all those taken to Richmond Hospital and the Vancouver General Hospital had been treated and released. All of these were cabin crew members.
Gavin Wilson, public affairs director for Vancouver Coastal Health, told the BBC that everyone had been discharged from hospital, but added: ‘I can’t tell you at this point what they were assessed for.’
A letter handed to passengers said: ‘I am very sorry for the disruption to your journey today.
‘Due to unwell crew in need of medical attention we have had to divert to Vancouver.
‘As a result of this diversion the current crews will not be able to operate again today.’
The letter continued: ‘We will do everything we can to keep your delay to a minimum. I would like to assure you that your safety is paramount and always our first concern.’
Full report here.
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