Twelve passengers questioned over Etihad plane fires

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Twelve passengers have been questioned by UAE security authorities as part of an investigation into a series of fires which occurred in the cabin toilets of an Etihad flight on Monday.

An Etihad Airways flight from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi was forced to make an unscheduled landing in Jakarta after two fires were sparked in the cabin toilets while the plane was mid-air.

A third incident also took place after the plane resumed its journey, causing the pilot to cancel all in-flight service so that air stewards could guard each of the cabin’s toilets.

Flight EY461 departed Melbourne about 11pm on Monday and eventually arrived in the UAE capital four hours behind schedule, without any injury to passengers or crew.

Etihad Airways confirmed the pilot diverted the Boeing 777-300ER to Jakarta, Indonesia, when smoke was detected in two of the toilets, “as a precautionary measure” to allow authorities to assist him to conduct a security assessment of the situation.

“The flight resumed after a security search of the aircraft, passengers and their carry-on luggage,” Etihad Airways said in a statement.

When the plane was in the air again, “strict controls” were implemented over passenger movement in the cabin and passenger access to the toilets was restricted.

A further toilet smoke alarm occurred two hours before arrival into Abu Dhabi, as the cabin crew were preparing the final meal service.

Crew immediately dealt with the smoke but the incident led the captain to position crew members at each of the toilets, resulting in cabin service being cancelled.

Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, 12 passengers were detained by authorities for questioning, but all were released without charge.

“Etihad Airways has been advised that the local security authorities have concluded their investigation into the incidents onboard Etihad Airways flight EY 461 from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi on 17 February,” the Abu Dhabi carrier said in a statement.

“All remaining passengers held for questioning by the security authorities have been allowed to continue their journey.

“Etihad Airways has been helping passengers and re-booked flights and organised hotel accommodation and transfers where required.”

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