TORONTO – The Transportation Safety Board’s (TSB) investigation into a collision between two planes will examine whether a major airline followed its evacuation protocols, a spokesman said Saturday.
A Sunwing plane caught on fire after it clipped a WestJet aircraft at Toronto Pearson International Airport Friday evening, forcing those on board the WestJet aircraft to evacuate the plane on emergency slides.
A WestJet spokesperson told Global News on Friday that while waiting to proceed to the gate, a Sunwing plane reversing from the gate struck a WestJet Boeing 737-800 carrying 168 guests and six crew members.
Everyone was safely evacuated and nobody on board was injured.
But passengers have offered accounts of confusion aboard the plane and allegations that procedures were not clearly communicated.
WestJet did not respond to questions about the allegations, but Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris Krepski said they will be one of the aspects examined in its pending probe.
“Certainly we would look into the evacuation procedures,” he said in an interview. “We would look at the procedures in place at the Toronto Pearson Airport with respect to ground handling operations. … These are all elements of information we will be gathering as part of the investigation.”
Ali Alagheband, an engineer from Toronto travelling aboard the Westjet flight with his wife and son, said chaos erupted shortly after the plane touched down early Friday night.
He said the flight from Mexico had landed early, requiring the aircraft to wait on the ground before passengers could disembark.
As they waited to taxi to the gate, Alagheband said he felt what he called a “significant vibration” that led him to believe the plane had been hit.
Shortly thereafter, he said he saw a fireball near the plane’s wing and began to smell smoke.
VIDEO: Pilot calls for ‘mayday’ after plane catches fire at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport
He said the resulting commotion made it difficult to hear instructions from the flight crew, adding what information came through was sometimes contradictory.
But he said the crew’s primary piece of advice was at odds with what he felt to be the safest approach.
“I’m sure they did their best, but … they kept saying ‘be seated, remain seated’ as the fire was going on outside,” he said. “I was telling my wife, ‘to hell with keeping seated, we’ve got to get out of here.”‘
WATCH: Woman films evacuation from WestJet flight after incident at Pearson Airport
Alagheband said he never heard announcements coming from the pilot clarifying how to proceed, a situation he said was dangerous given the fact that a fire was burning near an area where plane fuel is stored.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority said crews extinguished a small fire on the Sunwing plane and some flight operations were affected by the incident. One airport firefighter was sent to hospital with undisclosed injuries.
Swissport Canada Handling Inc. confirmed to Global News Friday its staff towed the Sunwing plane. Pierre Payette, vice president of operations for Toronto, said in a written statement the company “regrets” the incident and is cooperating with TSB investigators.
“The incident occurred when our employee was pushing back the plane from the gate,” Payette wrote.
Sunwing said there were no crew or passengers aboard its aircraft at the time of the incident.
—With files from Nick Westoll
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