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De-icing solution sends air crew members to hospital

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  • NEW: 18 passengers treated at scene after exposure to de-icing fluid
  • Fumes send seven Alaska Airlines crew members to the hospital
  • AirTran jetliner skids off runway in Moline, Illinois, TV station reports
  • Weather delays Christmas Eve flights across country
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SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- An accident involving de-icing solution being sprayed on an Alaska Airlines plane in snow-covered Seattle sent seven people to a hospital Wednesday, airport and hospital officials said.

Emergency vehicles gather around Alaska Airlines planes in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday.

Emergency vehicles gather around Alaska Airlines planes in Seattle, Washington, on Wednesday.

The seven, who were crew members, were transported to Highline Medical Center for minor issues, such as eye irritation, dizziness and nausea, said Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper. Eighteen passengers were treated at the scene.

There had been an initial report that two people were badly hurt, but Cooper said all of the injuries were minor. He said six of the crew members transported to the hospital were working and one was off duty.

Caroline Boren, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman, confirmed the injury numbers and said the most extensive treatment given to the passengers was an eye wash. None of them requested further treatment or were transported to the hospital.

Matt Crockett, assistant administrator at Highline Medical Center, confirmed the hospital was assessing seven people in its emergency room. He said six of them were in satisfactory condition and another was still being evaluated.

The incident began when fumes from the de-icing application got into the cabin of Alaska Airlines Flight 528. Video Watch an ex-transportation official explain how the fumes seeped into the plane »

Alaska Airlines said the flight was getting ready for takeoff to Burbank, California, when passengers began to complain of eye irritation and strong fumes from the chemicals. Video footage showed several emergency vehicles around the plane on the snow-covered tarmac.

The airline said the plane, a Boeing 737-800, was carrying 143 passengers and several crew members. Boren called the situation "very unusual" and said maintenance crew had been working on the plane.

Cooper said the airline was bringing in another aircraft to transport the passengers to their destination.

Seattle has been blanketed with nearly 9 inches of snow this week, and forecasters predicted snow mixed with rain Wednesday, with an accumulation of about a half inch of new snow through Thursday.

One passenger, Joe Dial of Seattle, told CNN affiliate KIRO-TV that passengers were exposed to the de-icer fumes for 45 minutes before they were able to leave the plane.

The jetliner had pulled away from the gate Wednesday morning, but then had to return for the de-icing process, Dial told KIRO.

Meanwhile in Moline, Illinois, an AirTran Airways jet skidded off the runway at Quad City International Airport, CNN affiliate WQAD-TV reported.

Witnesses said passengers were being evacuated to buses, and there appeared to be no injuries, according to WQAD. The airport was closed to all traffic after the accident, the station said.

At airports elsewhere across the U.S., weather was forcing significant delays as travelers tried to reach their destinations by Christmas.

Flights bound for Newark-Liberty International Airport in New Jersey faced delays averaging three hours. Flights into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in Illinois, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and San Francisco International Airport in California were all subject to delays averaging an hour or more, according to the FAA.

Travelers at O'Hare were hoping Wednesday went better than the day before as thousands were stranded in the nation's second-busiest airport overnight when hundreds of flights were canceled.

"It is ruining my holiday," one stranded passenger, Keith Bouchard, told CNN affiliate WLS-TV.

"I am not going to have a holiday mood till I get home," stranded passenger Ken Estes told WLS.

O'Hare's trouble extended to South Florida, where Laura Weichhand and Rachel Lewis got stuck at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when their flight to Chicago was canceled.

"If we want to be home for Christmas ... our only option is we're going to drive 26 hours to be home for Christmas," Lewis told CNN affiliate WPLG-TV.

The Chicago area was expected to get 1 inch to 3 inches of new snow Wednesday.

At Colorado's Denver International Airport, lost luggage was a huge problem. Thousands of pieces of unclaimed baggage were in the airport's arrivals area, CNN affiliate KMGH-TV reported.

Deanna Nokes, who was stranded in Denver on her way to Portland, Oregon, told KGMH her bags were nowhere in sight.

"They don't even know where my bag is," she told the station. "It still could be in Vegas, or Phoenix, or Portland."

Airports in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, were hit hardest by weather delays earlier in the week, with hundreds of flight cancellations Sunday through Tuesday.

The two Northwest airports were reporting just a few delays Wednesday, but a new storm was rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, bringing snow and rain, the National Weather Service said.

"It will not be as strong as this past weekend's storm," said weather service meteorologist Kirby Cook in Seattle.

But that may be of little consolation to thousands of travelers stranded at Northwest airports because of cancellations earlier in the week.

Alaska Airlines, the area's major carrier, said fully booked holiday flights left it with few options to accommodate the weather weary, CNN affiliate KHQ-TV in Spokane, Washington, reported.

Some in Spokane turned to to try to get home for Christmas. The Web site had more than 30 posts from people looking to get to or out of Spokane, CNN affiliate KXLY-TV reported.

"I know Craigslist has a rideshare community so I thought I'd try, and so far not so good," Priscilla Davis of Federal Way, Washington, told KXLY.

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