Bomb Squad Called As Bag Explodes On The Tarmac In Chicago

A bag in the process of being loaded onto a Volaris flight reportedly exploded today. The luggage was being moved from the conveyer towards the aircraft at Chicago Midway Airport when something inside one of the bags exploded. The Chicago bomb squad was in attendance, along with numerous other agencies. No injuries were reported and the aircraft was undamaged. Police believe it may have been a mobile phone or battery charger that caused the blast.

Volaris A319
A Volaris A319 was involved in a baggage explosion at Chicago Midway. Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

Details of the incident

Volaris flight Y4943 was being loaded up with baggage and passengers earlier today when the incident occurred. According to FlightRadar24, this was a service from Chicago to Silao (BJX), due to be operated by an Airbus A319 registered XA-VOK.

Volaris explosion
XA-VOK was reportedly not damaged in the explosion. Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

The aircraft was on the apron at Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) when an explosion took place in a bag. Chicago police are quoted by ABC Chicago as saying that the bag exploded just after noon whilst being loaded onto the plane.

A Twitter post contains audio from the incident, where a baggage handler seems to alert the airport that an explosion has taken place. The poster says that a Level 1 Hazmat was declared, and that there was a heavy presence of police and fire department, as well as federal agencies.

Reports from the scene suggest nobody was injured and that there was no damage to the aircraft either. Airport operations have apparently resumed as normal since the incident. The flight is showing to still be scheduled, but delayed, with a new estimated departure time of 19:10, almost seven hours later than planned.

A cell phone or battery charger

Chief communications officer at Chicago Police, Anthony Guglielmi, commented on Twitter that the incident was likely related to a cell phone battery or some sort of battery charger.

A pilot on Twitter also supported this theory, saying that lithium products are the most likely to cause a minor explosion.

I would say yes if it came off of an inbound. But since it was going out, there were no pressurization issues. In all of my piloting years, these explosions are usually lithium.

— 🇺🇸Zod 2020🇬🇧 (@StormWall82) October 21, 2019

Lithium batteries are known to be a hazard to safety, but only in a handful of cases. Most of us have phones, laptops, tablets and other devices all with lithium ion batteries inside. In the vast majority of cases, they never go wrong, but just occasionally they can become a major problem.

Samsung’s Note 7 was banned from aircraft because handsets were catching fire or exploding. In February this year, the US Department of Transportation along with the FAA placed a ban on transporting lithium-ion cells or batteries in the cargo hold of aircraft. And, more recently, the FAA banned certain models of MacBook Pro from flights due to a risk of overheating or catching fire.

phone fire
All devices with rechargeable batteries should be carried in hand luggage. Photo: Goodfreephotos

While the precise culprit of today’s Midway explosion remains to be confirmed, if it does turn out to be a lithium-ion battery, the owner could be in a bit of trouble. As the bag was being loaded, it suggests it was headed for the cargo hold of the plane, in breach of the FAA rules.

Thankfully nobody was injured and the incident was dealt with swiftly and efficiently. However, had it taken place midflight, in a pressurized environment surrounded by other bags, it could have been a very different story.