ALBANY, GA - A plane headed for Saint Petersburg from Cedar Rapids, Iowa was forced to make an emergency landing overnight in Georgia. Passengers were expected to arrive by bus in Saint Petersburg by 6 a.m. Monday morning.
WPLG-TV reports authorities say the plane was forced to land and evacuate in Albany after a possible fire in the cargo area. About 160 passengers and crew were onboard the Allegiant Airlines flight.
While crews prepared on the ground at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, pilots and passengers braced for a landing they hadn't planned to make.
"Not knowing what was going to happen next, we didn't know if it was going to be a safe landing, or a horrendous landing, we didn't know where we were going down," said one passenger.
"It was wild, I mean, I stayed calm somewhat, but I could tell that once we stopped people were very panicky, wanting to get to that exit right away," said another passenger.
And rightfully so, as the pilot of the plane noticed an indicator light that had a fire breaking out in the cargo area. Allegiant Airlines released a statement shortly after the landing saying:
"For the safety of the passengers, the best option was to land at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport just before 9:00 pm Sunday night."
But despite the scary nature of the landing, passengers say the airline staff and airport staff did everything they could to make this about as safe of a situation as it could've possibly been.
The American Red Cross also arrived to the airport to bring pizza for the passengers and to try to make them as comfortable as possible.
An FAA spokeswoman says no fire was found on the plane when investigators arrived.