When TSA officers at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport heard frantic knocking at an airplane’s jetway door, they knew something was wrong.
“When we opened the door, there was the airline agent panicked, yelling, ‘The truck is on fire. We need help!’" said Supervisory Officer Donna Lamonaca.
A deicing truck just a few feet from the plane full of passengers caught fire. Flames rose above the truck after the heating system for the deicing fluid malfunctioned and ignited.
Lead Officer Scott Sube and Officer Elizabeth Williams did not hesitate and rushed outside to assess the situation. Meanwhile, Lamonaca called 911 and notified airport officials.
“Flames were shooting off the back end of the truck at least two feet high,” Williams said. “I scanned the area around the truck and ramp to make sure no one was near. When I turned around, Officer Scott Sube had a fire extinguisher in hand and began spraying the truck.
“I saw another extinguisher on the back of the truck and grabbed it. Scott and I continued to spray the truck until his extinguisher emptied and he got another one. Once my unit emptied, I stepped back to see the airport fire truck approaching.”
The airport fire department, local firefighters, police and emergency responders arrived at the scene but not before Sube and Williams doused the fire, keeping the flames at bay and most importantly, away from the aircraft.
Williams was relieved to see the airport and county firefighters arrive and put the fire completely out. “I was thankful no one was hurt, and the firefighters had everything under control.”
By preventing the fire from getting worse, Sube and Williams earned high praise.
“As is the case with most small airports, we do not have a police officer staffed or any kind of EMT on hand, so their efforts were the only thing that kept the flames from getting to the fuel tank of the truck or the aircraft with passengers on board,” Lamonaca said. “Without their fast and selfless response, the results could have been catastrophic.”
Once the fire truck arrived and firefighters took over, Sube and Williams went back inside, covered in fire extinguisher foam. They declined medical assistance.
Officer Amy Naugle was assigned the walk-through metal detectors.
“She did an outstanding job at keeping her post,” Lamonaca said. “She did not get sidetracked in the moment, stayed attentive to her duties, remained aware of her surroundings and assisted in the passing through of emergency personnel.”
From TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs