16/04/2012 17:12 BST

Gatwick Emergency Landing: 15 Hospitalised In Virgin Atlantic Plane Incident

Fifteen people were hospitalised after a Virgin Atlantic plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport.

Passengers suffered a range of injuries, including suspected fractures and cuts, as they escaped Airbus A330 using the emergency chutes on Monday.

Passenger Tom Aldridge told the BBC: "The people panicking as they were jumping off were throwing themselves out of the plane down the chute and there was a big pile of bodies at the bottom where people were just landing on top of each other and there were quite a few injuries."

And fellow passenger Kirsty Bonwick told radio station LBC: "A lot of people were hurt scraping their arms and legs and elbows and bleeding... you think you're going to stop at the end of the chute and then get up, but you go flying off of it and you just went across the concrete, which is why everybody cut their arms and legs and were bleeding."

There were reports of a small fire on board as the Florida-bound plane came in to land two hours after it had taken off just before 11am.

Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said the flight, carrying 301 adults and three children, was not far out of London when the technical alarms went off on the flight deck.

He said the captain made the decision to turn the aircraft around and fly back to Gatwick.

He said: "We carried out an emergency evacuation, which was the right thing to do."

Dr Jane Pateman, South East Coast Ambulance Service medical director, said: "A total of 15 patients were transferred to hospital, 14 of which went to two major trauma centres, at St George's Hospital and Royal Sussex County Hospital, suffering from suspected fractures."

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said it was called at 12.21pm to reports of a "small fire on board an aircraft", which had made a full emergency landing.

Flights in and out of Gatwick were suspended from the time of the emergency landing until around 2pm, with a number of incoming flights diverted - some to Stansted airport in Essex.

The Virgin plane after it had to emergency land and evacuate due to a 'technical fault'

Virgin Atlantic's president, Sir Richard Branson, tweeted: "Very sorry to all passengers on board VS27. The staff @virginatlantic are doing everything they can to look after everybody. More info soon."

Lorna Willson, 23, who works in a building that overlooks the runway, said she saw the immediate aftermath of the landing.

She went on: "I was just eating my lunch and I noticed the plane. They usually take off quite quickly but this one didn't go anywhere.

"Then I realised all the chutes were out and there were lots of fire engines and police.

"I think the passengers had been taken off, but you could see a few stewardesses. There was quite a lot of emergency services there."

Virgin Atlantic said: "Our teams at Gatwick are now offering full support, looking after our passengers and assisting with their immediate requirements.

"We are working closely with the authorities to establish the cause of this incident. The safety and welfare of our crew and passengers is our top priority."