'We were going to die': Passengers on Alaska Airlines jet speak out about door plug blowout

A mother said her son's "clothing had been torn off of his upper body,”

January 10, 2024, 6:59 AM

Passengers who were on board an Alaska Airlines plane say that they thought “we were going to die” after a door plug flew off of the Boeing 737 Max 9 jet at an altitude of 16,000 feet last Friday.

Sieysoar Un and her 12-year-old son Josaih McCaul were sitting in the row right behind the door plug when it flew off the plane, taking Josiah’s phone and stuffed animal with it, the passengers said during an interview on “Good Morning America” Wednesday morning.

“I reached over and held his hand. We literally thought that we were going to die,” Un said in the “GMA” interview.

“You just hear a big boom,” said McCaul. “It was silent for like one second, and then you would just feel and hear a lot of air blowing around, freezing cold air.”

The part fell off the plane, a Boeing 737 Max 9, around 5:11 p.m. local time Friday as the aircraft with 171 passengers, including three babies and four unaccompanied minors, had climbed to 16,000 feet after taking off from Portland International Airport, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane is parked on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport on January 8, 2024, in Los Angeles. United and Alaska Airlines both reported on January 8 that loose hardware had been discovered on some of their Boeing 737 MAX 9 planes during preliminary inspections after a dramatic mid-flight incident last week. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Another passenger, a mother of a 15-year-old boy who lost his shirt, said that as the cabin began to depressurize, she saw her son’s seat being pulled toward the hole in the plane’s fuselage.

“I reached over and grabbed his body and pulled him towards me over the armrest,” she said. "I did not realize until after the flight that his clothing had been torn off of his upper body,” adding that the noise of the door plug coming off sounded like a “bomb exploding.”

Meanwhile, Boeing says the company is now working with that National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure this never happens again.

“We're going to approach this number one acknowledging our mistake,” said Boeing’s president and CEO, Dave Calhoun. “We're going to approach it with 100% complete transparency every step of the way.”

The FAA has said the planes will remain grounded for now and that “the safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service.”

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