The lug­gage you grab might be your last

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

If you travel by air any amount, you’ve heard it be­fore: the safety demon­stra­tion that, even­tu­ally, you can al­most re­peat by rote.

“Insert the flat metal end into the buckle and pull on the loose strap to tighten… If there is a sud­den change in cabin pres­sure…”

You know the drill. Ex­cept, strangely, many peo­ple don’t.

Last week, a WestJet air­craft caught fire at Toronto’s Pear­son Air­port af­ter an empty Sun­Wing jet, be­ing towed, crashed into it.

Cell­phone video of the tu­mult on the WestJet air­craft cap­tured the flames and the raised voices. No one was in­jured and the air­craft was safely evac­u­ated.

But things didn’t go as smoothly as the emer­gency pro­ce­dures card that’s tucked into your seat-pocket would have it, and peo­ple faced crit­i­cal de­lays in get­ting off the air­craft. The cause?

Sheer stu­pid­ity.

Pas­sen­ger Ali Alaghe­band, trav­el­ling with his wife and son, told CBC News that the evac­u­a­tion of the air­craft was slowed by some pas­sen­gers who in­sisted on not leav­ing the plane with­out their carry-on bags.

“I was yelling at peo­ple reach­ing over­head to get their bags. It was ridicu­lous,” he said. “I was lit­er­ally yelling, ‘Get the F off the plane.’”


It’s an is­sue that you can be sure the fed­eral Trans­porta­tion Safety Board (TSB) is go­ing to have a good hard look at. Why?

Be­cause an air crash in At­lantic Canada shows such be­hav­iour is hardly an iso­lated event.

When an Air Canada Air­bus crashed at the Hal­i­fax air­port in March 2015, the TSB made spe­cial men­tion of peo­ple’s fond­ness for their carry-on items.

“In this oc­cur­rence, some pas­sen­gers ex­ited the air­craft with their carry-on bag­gage, although they were ad­vised not to by the cabin crew dur­ing the pre-de­par­ture pas­sen­ger safety brief­ing and af­ter the air­craft had come to a stop. The safe­tyfea­tures card also de­picts that carry-on bag­gage is not to be taken when evac­u­at­ing dur­ing an emer­gency.”

Parts of the plane were torn off. The plane slid on its belly. Metal sup­port beams were driven up through the air­craft’s floor by the force of the crash.

It is also, sadly, a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence at ac­ci­dents: “The TSB has in­ves­ti­gated a num­ber of ac­ci­dents in which pas­sen­gers re­trieved their carry-on bag­gage dur­ing an evac­u­a­tion. In 2007, fol­low­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Au­gust 2005 over­run oc­cur­rence at Toronto Lester B. Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port, On­tario, the TSB found that, dur­ing the emer­gency evac­u­a­tion of the air­craft, many pas­sen­gers took their carry-on bag­gage with them, de­spite spe­cific in­struc­tions to the con­trary be­ing re­peat­edly shouted to them by the flight at­ten­dants.”

You might re­mem­ber that air crash: a spec­tac­u­lar fire that com­pletely de­stroyed the plane af­ter an Air France jet over­shot the run­way. Heavy smoke was al­ready com­ing into the cabin through two doors and pas­sen­gers were still try­ing to get at their carry-on lug­gage.

The Hal­i­fax in­ves­ti­ga­tion said re­search found that “pas­sen­gers in­sist­ing on re­triev­ing their carry-on bag­gage dur­ing an emer­gency evac­u­a­tion was not unique to this ac­ci­dent, but was rather wide­spread.”

Think about this when you look at the per­son in the seat next to you. The TSB says, “Re­search has shown that pas­sen­gers typ­i­cally pay lit­tle at­ten­tion to the pre-de­par­ture brief­ings and to the safety-fea­tures cards.”

The TSB says the risks are clear: “If pas­sen­gers re­trieve or at­tempt to re­trieve their carry-on bag­gage dur­ing an evac­u­a­tion, they are putting them­selves and other pas­sen­gers at a greater risk of in­jury or death.”

In the un­likely event you are in an air crash, leave your stuff be­hind.

Be­cause emer­gency evac­u­a­tions aren’t sup­posed to be leisurely jaunts up the aisle, com­puter bag in one hand, jacket over your arm and roller-suit­case trail­ing be­hind you.

Some­one else’s stuff could be the death of you. Lit­er­ally.

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