Passengers aboard a Veuling Airlines flight say the captain and most of the flight crew were the first off the plane when an explosion and fire erupted while the plane was being prepared for a flight from Barcelona to Birmingham, U.K. The Spanish budget carrier’s A320 was filled with British holidaymakers when the cabin filled with smoke. Passenger Andrew Benion told The Sun the cabin crew apparently panicked, telling passengers first to stay buckled and then telling them to take their seatbelts off. “One ran into the cockpit to tell the captain. Then as soon as a stewardess opened the front door the captain ran straight off. He was just gone. He was first off the plane,” Benion said.

The captain was followed by his FO and all but one flight attendant who stayed behind to evacuate the plane. The shaken passengers were loaded on another plane and took off for Birmingham about three hours later. Benion likened the captain to the skipper of a cruise ship who jumped ship immediately after running a cruise ship aground off Italy a few years ago. “He did a full Costa Concordia. You’ve never seen anything like it. If we weren’t all so frightened it would have been complete comedy,” Benion said. “His door opened then the side door opened and bang—he was just gone.” Veuling Airlines has not commented publicly on the incident and the cause of the fire has not been released.

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