Allegiant flight from Iowa to St. Pete-Clw. forced to land in Ga. for possible cargo fire

Passengers to be bused back to Fla.

TAMPA BAY - An Allegiant Air flight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport made an emergency landing in Albany, Georgia, on Sunday night after a possible fire in the plane's cargo area.

Those on the plane were put on buses heading back to St. Pete-Clearwater around 3:40 a.m. Monday and should be in the area before 10 a.m.

According to Albany Police, emergency crews responded to Southwest Georgia Regional Airport around 8:57 p.m. after being alerted to the emergency landing.

Allegiant Air spokesperson Brian Davis tells ABC Action News late Sunday night that the emergency was declared by Allegiant flight 863 after a sensor in the plane's cargo area alerted to the possible fire.

An Albany Police spokesperson said a fire was discovered in the cargo area, but Davis could not confirm the report.

According to flight tracking website FlightAware.com, flight 863 left Cedar Rapids at 6:15 p.m. CST and landed two hours later, around 9:24 p.m. EST.

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  • If you or someone you know was on this flight, please contact ABC Action News at 813-354-2800 or Newstips@wfts.com

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The plane landed safely with 155 passengers and 6 crew members. All aboard evacuated the plane on blow-up slides that were deployed at the front left door of the plane and a tail-area door. No injuries were reported.

Rod McDowell, of Frostproof, said his wife, Nicole, and 2-year-old daughter were on the flight and were forced to evacuate the plane upon landing. They had to leave their luggage behind -- including his daughter's diapers: "It's kind of a mess."

"It was kind of nervous considering I was asleep on the plane when it happened," passenger Nina Biglari, of St. Petersburg, recalled to ABC Action News by phone early Monday morning. "I woke up and it was frantic" during the emergency landing.

Biglari said the flight crew seemed hurried, but felt they did a good job during the incident.

Bilgari said Allegiant had informed the passengers that buses were en route to the terminal and they would be bused from Albany back to the airport in Florida.

Davis said the Georgia airport was not prepared for such a large flight to land there, especially so late, and the airline was organize a plan to get the passengers to their destination in the Bay area as soon as possible.

Davis confirmed the plan to bus the passengers to Florida and said the airline expects the buses to arrive at St. Pete-Clearwater International around 6 a.m. Monday.

"At first we were under the impression that we would be put in a hotel," Biglari said, "but this was unexpected." Biglari and her boyfriend, Alex Omid, who was also on the flight, were returning from visiting family in Iowa.

"We are working with the airport to identify accommodation for the passengers as quickly as possible," he added.

Biglari and Nicole McDowell reported spending between one and two hours respectively on the tarmac following the emergency landing.

Biglari said the airline provided pizza and drinks some time after the passengers were taken by groups of 10 to the terminal from the tarmac by two emergency vehicles, because buses were delayed.

The plane will remain out of service indefinitely following the incident and the cause of the fire sensor or fire is under investigation.

Davis said there would be some type of rewards offered to passenger following the incident, but the details of the package have not been determined by the airline.

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Tara Herrschaft at ABC affiliate WALB in Albany, Georgia, contributed to this report.

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