Miami-bound flight with superintendent, politician makes emergen - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Miami-bound flight with superintendent, politician makes emergency landing

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Alberto Carvalho (front, right) and Mario Diaz-Balart (rear, right) and others. Alberto Carvalho (front, right) and Mario Diaz-Balart (rear, right) and others.
Crews responding to the emergency landing. Crews responding to the emergency landing.
Tweet sent out by Mario Diaz-Balart. Tweet sent out by Mario Diaz-Balart.

MIAMI (WSVN) -- Miami-Dade School's superintendent and a political figure experienced some trouble on their way home to South Florida, when their flight from Tallahassee was forced to make an emergency landing in Tampa.

The emergency landing happened Thursday night. The flight was initially delayed twice. Then, after takeoff, a small explosion was heard, followed by a strong smell of smoke coming from the cockpit.

"I could smell but I couldn't see the smoke," said Miami-Dade School's Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

South Florida political figures, including Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and his wife, Tia Diaz-Balart, were also on board the American Airlines jet. "The flight was going just fine and then in mid-flight there was kinda like a bang followed by grinding sounds, almost like metal on metal grinding," said Tia.

"He said, 'We are going down for emergency landing make sure that you grab your legs and bend down,'" said Mario.

The flight attendant informed us that we were going to make an emergency landing," said Carvalho. "The most dramatic moment was when the pilot, we were ready to deploy the chutes and go out through the exit doors. Last minute, the pilot told us not to do so, and shortly thereafter in a matter of seconds, I think there were firefighters in Hazmat suits and these helmets. I have never seen anything like this. They climbed onto the plane. One of them I didn't even know he was a firefighter proceeded to walk down the aisle."

Tia said her family was on her mind through the whole incident. "The first thing that goes through our minds is our family, our 8-year-old son," she said.

Carvalho said it was like something out of a movie. "They climbed onto the plane, and they proceeded, one of them, I didn't even know he was a firefighter, proceeded to walk down the aisle with what appeared to be a gun, but it was actually an infrared device that he was pointing at the airplane," he said.

Crew members told the 46 passengers to brace for a crash landing. "We landed very quickly, an abrupt stop, but the landing I wouldn't say it was a crash landing," said the superintendent.

Diaz-Balart tweeted a thank you to the crew that reads: "Flight I was on from Tallahassee to MIA was diverted to Tampa for emergency landing. Everyone is OK; big thanks to flight crew and first responders."

"Everyone was so relieved and so grateful," said Tia. "It was really just a moment of, yeah, we did it. We are here. Everything is great."

The passengers remained in Tampa overnight, because there were no more Miami-bound flights Thursday night. Hotel rooms and meal vouchers were provided.

Carvalho arrived back in Miami Friday morning and said he could not be happier to be back at work. "This is the best relief for me, is to connect back to kids, to teachers, to education," said Carvalho.

American Airlines has said there was a maintenance issue. The part that cools and heats the cabin malfunctioned.


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