An Israeli woman was left in a serious condition after falling out of the doorway of a passenger jet during a chaotic evacuation when passengers became alarmed at smoke in the cabin and rushed to the emergency exits.
Dikla Abitbul, 38, a mother of two from the central city of Lod, was on a five-day holiday in Hungary organized by her work. She is being treated in a Budapest hospital, where she has been since the incident happened last Friday at the start of her return flight from Ferenc Liszt International Airport to Tel Aviv.
Abitbul’s mother, Riki Sapirin, told the Hebrew-language Ynet website that her daughter is sedated and on a respirator after having undergone surgery.
In addition to her head injuries, Abitbul has broken ribs and her arms are in casts, Sapirin said, speaking from Budapest where she had joined her daughter.
The incident happened as the plane was taxiing in preparation for the flight to Tel Aviv. An airport towing tug emitted thick smoke that was sucked into the cabin by the plane’s air-conditioning system. Although the pilot repeatedly announced to passengers that the smoke was coming from outside and that there was no danger, those on board apparently left their seats and rushed the doors.
In the commotion the cabin crew opened the doors to deploy the emergency chutes enabling passengers to leave the plane. Abitbul apparently fell from the aircraft before the chute was opened.
“She didn’t slide,” Sapirin explained. “She didn’t manage to slide. She was standing at the entrance to the plane, among the first five passengers that stood in line so that they would open the slides.”
Sapirin said that either the wind from the engines or perhaps an inadvertent push from the passengers behind her caused Abitbul to fall out of the aircraft and plummet to the asphalt below.
A surgeon and a senior doctor from Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva have flown out to Budapest to assist in her treatment, Ynet reported.
The aircraft involved, a Boeing 737, was leased by the Israir company from a Czech low-budget airline to replace a plane that was unable to fly the day before. Passengers had waited eight hours for the replacement jet to be readied for the flight back to Tel Aviv.
Israir arranged to fly Abitbul’s family and the doctors out to Hungary, Ynet reported.