Updated: Aug. 23, 7:40 a.m.
HONOLULU — A faulty engine seal has been blamed for an emergency on a Hawaiian Airlines flight Thursday that sent seven people to the hospital after smoke filled the cabin of a plane from California to Hawaii.
Hawaiian Airlines said 184 passengers and seven crew members used evacuation slides to get off the plane after it declared an in-flight emergency and landed in Honolulu.
The airlines traced the problem to a broken seal in the left engine. Oil leaked onto hot parts of the engine and air-conditioninbg system, generating the smoke that filled the cabin, the airlines said in a statement.
"The performance of the engine was not affected, and the Airbus A321neo flight landed without incident on runway 4R," according to the airlines. "We are conducting a thorough inspection of the aircraft before returning it to service."
Jon Snook, Hawaiian Airlines chief operating officer, said smoke was first detected on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 47 from Oakland, California, about 20 minutes prior to landing as the plane began to descend.
American Medical Response spokesman James Ireland said a total of 11 patients had breathing complaints and seven were taken to the hospital with respiratory problems.
Ireland said the youngest patient taken to the hospital was a 9-month-old. He said another older child was also taken to the hospital and the rest were adults. All injuries were considered minor.
"They had just served a last round of drinks or refills," said Mia Guevarra, who was on the flight with her boyfriend. "And then all of a sudden it started smoking in the cabin.
"At first, it was kind of like, 'What's that smell?' It kind of smelled like burning plastic. Then all of a sudden it started getting smoky in the cabin, and when it started getting really bad, people started to get really concerned. The flight attendants didn't know what was going on, but tried to keep everyone calm."
One person was examined at the scene for injuries suffered during the evacuation.
Snook said there was visible smoke in the cabin and a smoke indication in the cargo hold set off a warning in the cockpit, which prompted the emergency landing. He said there were no visible flames anywhere on the plane.
An automatic fire suppression system was activated in the cargo hold, Snook said.
He said smoke was still prevalent in the cabin after the plane landed, which is why the passengers were ordered to use the slides to evacuate the aircraft.
Shuttles took passengers, who left their luggage behind, to a staging area at the airport. Snook said Hawaiian Airlines is refunding passengers for the cost of their round trip tickets and will give passengers a voucher for future travel.
"It's going to take a little bit of time to get the bags released from the aircraft, obviously we want to be sure that we understand what the source of the smoke was and one possibility of course is that the bags may have been a source," Snook said. "We have no evidence to suggest that right now but we want to be cautious about taking the bags off."
Snook thanked the crew and passengers for evacuating in an orderly way "in what could have been a complex and dangerous situation."
Snook said the National Transportation Safety Board will be notified and conduct an investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration will also investigate, said spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
Firefighters said it took the passengers just 30 to 45 seconds to exit the aircraft. A few had only minor bruises from coming down the slides, said Glenn Mitchell, the airport's fire chief.
HPR contributed to this story.