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Inquiry raps passengers for carry-on retrieval during evacuation

Investigation of a Nordic Regional Airlines Embraer 190 evacuation found that nearly two-thirds of passengers retrieved carry-on baggage before exiting the aircraft.

The Finnish Safety Investigation Authority says the aircraft had landed at Turku following a smoke alert relating to the air conditioning packs.

It sharply criticises the manner of the passengers’ evacuation, stating that 63% stopped to retrieve coats or carry-on baggage beforehand, despite being ordered to leave belongings behind.

“Groping for carry-ons in an emergency shows blatant disregard for others and may cause deaths or injuries,” says the authority.

One hundred passengers and four crew members had been on board.

All six exits – two fore, two aft, two overwing – were opened, with slides functioning normally it says, and the cabin crew issued evacuation instructions “loud and clear” during the incident, on 3 December last year.

The investigation found that 39% of passengers had observed the pre-take-off safety demonstration, but 29% of passengers had “disregarded” the safety announcements.

Investigator in charge Ismo Aaltonen states that evacuations are “not a place for negotiations”, adding that all passengers should behave in an “effective and controlled manner” and leave carry-on baggage behind.

“Evacuation is invariably a serious situation and groping for carry-ons or not heeding the crew’s orders may, in the worst case, lead to additional deaths and injuries,” says the inquiry.

Several passengers who left the overwing exits moved towards the wing-tips and congregated mid-span, instead of heading along the side of the fuselage as required by the evacuation route.

Rescue crews told these passengers to re-enter the aircraft and evacuate via slides in order to prevent them falling from the wings.

While the overwing route is illuminated with exterior lights all the way to the ground, the inquiry says illumination alone “will not render the overwing routes as conspicuous and easy to use as the door slides”.

Jumping from the outer wings, it adds, would increase the likelihood of injury given the height of the drop.

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