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On 5 June 2009, during a scheduled passenger service from Melbourne, Victoria (Vic.) to Coolangatta, Queensland (Qld), the cabin crew of a Boeing Company 737-800 aircraft, registered VH-VBL, detected a strong intermittent smell in the rear of the cabin. An inspection by the cabin crew did not detect the source of the smell.

On descent prior to landing, cabin crew presented various symptoms. Two of the cabin crew used oxygen before recovering sufficiently to resume their duties. No passengers were affected.

The airport rescue and fire fighting service attended the aircraft at the arrival gate. Paramedics conducted medical checks on the cabin crew. Both the cabin crew and flight crew were taken to the local hospital for further examination and later released.

The cargo holds were opened prior to a precautionary inspection for the source of the fumes. The source and nature of the fumes was not identified.

As a result of the incident, the operator initiated and completed a number of safety actions to improve communications and processes in relation to air contamination events.

While it was not possible to determine the nature or source of the reported fumes, the incident highlights the potential for crew incapacitation from exposure to toxic smoke and fumes.

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