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Unconfirmed reports say smoke in the cargo hold caused the pilot of the Orlando-bound plane to return to Gatwick Airport immediately.
A Virgin Atlantic plane flying from London to Florida made an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport today, leaving at least 15 people injured, according to The Associated Press.
The Guardian said only four were injured but reported that the flight bound for Orlando had reached 20,000 feet over the English Channel with 312 people aboard when it returned to Gatwick. Unofficial reports said a fire had broken out in the cargo hold.
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Injuries included bone fractures, according to the AP.
Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, tweeted an apology to the passengers:
Very sorry to all passengers on board VS27, the staff @virginatlantic are doing everything they can to look after everybody. More info soon
— richardbranson (@richardbranson) April 16, 2012
"Due to a technical problem, the captain decided as a precautionary measure to immediately evacuate the aircraft," Virgin Atlantic said in a statement carried by the AP.
The AP said Virgin did not provide details about the cause of the emergency but claimed that the flight crew said they had not seen or smelled smoke on board the Airbus A330-300.
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"Then the pilot came on the Tannoy about 10 minutes into the flight and said we would have to do an emergency landing, Liam Moore, a passenger was quoted as saying by the BBC.
"It all happened so quickly. We landed and suddenly all the doors flung open and the emergency slides were inflated."