Stewardess relives moment BA plane set on fire sparking ‘mass panic’

Richard Hartley-Parkinson

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A British Airways steward has relived the moment that the plane she was working on set on fire sparking panic throughout the cabin.

Lucy Sargeant, 29, said that she ‘genuinely thought she was going to die’ when the BA jet’s engine set on fire on its way from Heathrow to Oslo.

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A tribunal heard that there was ‘complete panic on the plane’ when the fan cowls from both engines became detached and fell off during take off.

It caused a fuel leak and a fire in both engines that led to an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport where 75 passengers were evacuated.

She is now suing the airline for £750,000 after she was forced to quit what she considered to be ‘the most wonderful job’.

Stewardess relives moment BA plane set on fire sparking 'mass panic'
Flames were pictured coming out of the wing as the plane came in to land (Picture: Rex Shutterstock)
Stewardess relives moment BA plane set on fire sparking 'mass panic'
The damage to the engine was clearly visible after the fire (Picture Barcroft)

Barrister Nicholas Yell told the tribunal: ‘They were very lucky to be able to evacuate the aircraft without physical injury or anyone being killed.

‘The movements of the plane suggested it was in its terminal phases as it was coming in to land.

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‘Seasoned flyers such as Miss Sargeant were completely terrified but tried to keep up a brave face for the benefit of the passengers. It is difficult to over-estimate the seriousness of what happened.’

All the passengers and crew managed to escape down the plane’s emergency chutes.

BA has admitted liability for her psychiatric injuries but it is disputing the amount of compensation owed.

Stewardess relives moment BA plane set on fire sparking 'mass panic'
There was mass panic on board when the plane’s engine set on fire (Picture: Sky News)

Her settlement includes loss of her career, free or discounted travel, other perks that went with her job.

Mr Yell added: ‘Miss Sargeant initially perceived this as the most wonderful job.

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‘Getting a job with British Airways is highly competitive and it advertises itself as “the world’s favourite airline”.

‘Before the events in question she enjoyed the job thoroughly. It was intended to be a lifelong career.’

But her ordeal ended up wrecking her career as a flight attendant, the court heard.

The forced landing left a legacy of ‘disturbed sleep, extreme anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares and fear of flying’.

Stewardess relives moment BA plane set on fire sparking 'mass panic'
Lucy Sargeant was severely traumatised following the panic on board her flight (Picture: Paul Keogh)

Although she battled to get back to work, Miss Sargeant never again felt safe in the skies, said Mr Yell.

A grim reminder of the incident came in mid-2016 when fumes began filling the cabin during a routine flight.

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Passengers and crew had to put on oxygen masks and Miss Sargeant was again on board during an emergency landing, the court heard.

She told the court that, but for the memory of the May 2013 trauma, she would have taken such incidents ‘in my stride’.

And in November 2016 she reluctantly decided to accept voluntary redundancy from BA, the court heard.

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‘I had never been back to myself since the 2013 incident,’ she told Judge Robert Glancy QC.

‘I was struggling all the time since I went back to flying. I just didn’t feel safe where I was working.’

The hearing continues.

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