Foul Odor on US Airways Causes Nine to Fall Ill, Again

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The same plane that left 15 people ill in January has once again sent passengers and crew to the hospital. This time, two passengers and seven crew members were hospitalized Tuesday with symptoms similar to those exposed to toxic fumes.

US Airways flight 985 was taxiing at the Charlotte/Douglas International airport when a foul, electrical smell infiltrated the cabin. The plane, scheduled to depart for Jamaica at 9:35 a.m., returned back to the gate.

Paramedics were called to the scene, and two pilots, five flight attendants and two passengers sought medical attention. "Some people had respiratory problems and eye irritation," said paramedic Bob Francis to NewsChannel 36, a local station in Charlotte. All but one of the nine people had been released from the hospital by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said a HAZMAT team did not find any air contamination. The remaining passengers were sent to Jamaica on a different plane with a new crew later that day.

This is the fourth time the same plane, a Boeing 767 with the tail number 251, has been grounded for similar issues. In January, eight passengers and seven crew members sought medical attention for headaches and nausea caused by exposure to a foul odor, which was later identified as an engine oil leak. Maintenance records maintained by NewsChannel 36 show the same plane was also grounded on December 28th and 30th, 2009 due to similar complaints. According to the news source, US Airways said those incidents "were later traced back to a leak of the hydraulic fluid Skydrol in the engine."

Concerns over the plane's history have been expressed by both the USAPA and the Association of Flight Attendants. In a letter to US Airways from February, union representatives demanded better filtration systems be installed on the aircraft, as well as the use of less toxic engine oil. "It is unacceptable to expose crew members and passengers to these toxins, and it is also unacceptable to deny associated workers' compensation claims and keep passengers in the dark," read the letter, according to NewsChannel 36.

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into these incidents.
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