More than 150 people safely arrived on buses at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport this morning, about 11 hours after their Allegiant Air jet from Iowa made an emergency landing in Georgia.
Three buses finished the final leg for the exhausted 155 passengers who left Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sunday evening on Flight 863, bound for St. Petersburg.
Officials said the MD-83 jet left Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids about 6:15 p.m. CDT. About two hours into the flight, a warning light alerted the pilot to a possible fire in the cargo area of the plane, so the plane was diverted to Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany, officials said.
"In an abundance of caution, they made the decision to land and get everyone off the plane," Allegiant spokesman Brian Davis said.
Passengers were told to leave their belongings on board and slide down chutes that deployed at the front and back of the plane.
"Grab nothing, just get off the plane," passenger Douglas Klima recalled hearing from crew members in an interview with WALB-TV.
"And get away from the plane," passenger Lori Launderville told the television station. "Get as far away from the plane as you can."
Passengers boarded the buses in Albany about 2:30 a.m. after getting their luggage.
"I didn't have that gut feeling, that 'Oh, my God', but I just thought it's going to be OK, just get off the plane," Launderville told WALB-TV.
Albany police at first said there was a fire but there has yet to be an official confirmation of one.
The plane also carried six crew members. There were no injuries reported.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.