JetBlue pilot and two flight attendants take ill in flight, divert to Buffalo

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – Three JetBlue crew members were taken to a local hospital after their flight was diverted to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport after they became ill Thursday evening.

JetBlue Flight #19 with 126 passengers on board was en route to San Diego from Boston when a crew member took ill and forced the plane to land in Buffalo around 7 p.m.

The pilot and two flight attendants were checked out by medical personnel for dizziness and later went to Erie County Medical Center for observation according to NFTA Spokesperson Helen Tederous.

Michael Feuerstein was a passenger on board the flight and tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that he and several other passengers smelled an acrid gasoline smell from the wing to the very back of the airplane.

“It started to become overpowering roughly 15 minutes to one-half hour before we made our descent. You could smell it and it became even worse when we landed,” said Mr. Feuerstein.

“When we landed, the firefighters walked on board with a carbon monoxide detector to the very back of the airplane where after that it started beeping, extremely, extremely, rapidly,” added Mr. Feuerstein.

He also described seeing a fluid leaking from an overhead baggage compartment.

He posted Facebook videos of the firefighters sweeping the cabin with meters and later of firefighters checking on passengers inside the airport at the gate.   One passenger was wearing an oxygen mask.

A supervisor with American Medical Response tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that several other people were checked out by medics at the airport, but were not transported to the hospital.

In one of Mr. Feuerstein’s videos, a JetBlue supervisor was seen explaining to the passengers what happened.  “There’s an odor on board the aircraft that the flight attendants didn’t like.  We’re not sure what the odor is at this point. A couple of them weren’t feeling so good,” the supervisor said.

Beyond that, Mr. Feuerstein says,”They won’t tell anybody anything.  They would not communicate to us what was directly wrong with the airplane.”

A flight from JFK was supposed to arrive in Buffalo around 10:10 p.m. to transport the passengers on to San Diego, but it didn’t arrive as of 11 p.m. according to Mr. Feuerstein.

He said the JetBlue ground crew was initially more concerned with providing passengers a $16 food vouchers instead of checking on the passenger’s well-being.

“They didn’t care about the people’s health.  They didn’t care about the people that were back there. Mind you, there were willing and able to make sure each of those flight attendants got on an ambulance,” said Mr. Feuerstein.

The flight was flying west over Lake Ontario when it turned east over southern Ontario to head towards Buffalo according to flight tracking data from Flightaware.com.

The NFTA says an investigation into the cause is underway.  The Federal Aviation Administration told Cheektowaga Chronicle that they do not investigate these types of events.

JetBlue released a statement Thursday evening saying: “JetBlue flight #19 from Boston to San Diego diverted to Buffalo when crew members required medical attention. The flight landed safely in Buffalo and was met by medical personnel. Customers will continue on to San Diego this evening.”

A JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Barbados returned to the airport Thursday afternoon after three flight attendants fell ill according to NBC News in Miami.  There was a report of an odor or fumes on board.