Passengers recount fearing for lives on Alaska Airlines flight


Harrowing accounts have emerged from passengers aboard the Alaska Airlines plane that lost its door plug mid-flight – including a woman who sent what she thought could be her final message to her parents, reading: “Please pray for me. I don’t want to die.”

Emma Vu was asleep in seat 18B aboard Flight 1282 when the Boeing 737-9 MAX with 171 passengers and six crew suddenly dropped after a chunk of its fuselage blew off at about 16,000 feet and left a gaping hole.

“The masks r down. I am so scared right now,” Vu wrote to her parents in texts she posted in a TikTok video, where she is seen wearing an oxygen mask during the ordeal Friday on the flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California.

“Please pray for me. Please i dont want to die,” she wrote.  

Vu told CNN it was “very scary” and “very surreal.”

“I woke up to the plane just falling and I knew it was not just normal turbulence because the masks came down, and that’s when the panic definitely started to set it,” she recalled.

“You just think it’s never going to happen to you — and then it literally did happen to me.”

Emma Vu, a passenger aboard the Alaska Airlines plane that lost its door plug mid-flight, sent her parents a message saying she did not want to die. TikTok / @shwimshady

She said she wanted to thank the passengers near her and a flight attendant for trying to keep her calm.

“I am so grateful for the two ladies who sat to either side of me,” Vu told the news outlet. “They were rubbing my back, giving me comfort.”

In another post, Vu further described how the harrowing events unfolded.

“I fell asleep and then we’re probably 20 minutes into the air and I feel the entire plane drop and the masks drop and people are screaming in a moment of vulnerability,” she says.

“Please pray for me. Please i dont want to die,” Vu wrote. TikTok / @shwimshady

Vu said the flight attendants were handing out oxygen tanks to passengers who needed them.

“I was freaking out because my bag wouldn’t inflate and that’s literally what they tell you in the safety thing — like don’t worry you’re still getting airflow, but (during) fight or flight you’re not thinking about that … it was just so scary,” she says in the video.

“The pilot came on and told everyone to put your mask on before you help others, like literally word for word what you hear in the safety briefing. It was just so surreal,” Vu said.

She told CNN that the airline had sent an apology email to passengers and promised to reimburse the cost of the ticket while also offering an additional $1,500 payment for “any inconvenience.”

“All I got was free snacks and a compensated flight with more legroom,” Vu said in her video, adding that Alaska Airlines should pay for therapy.

“I don’t know, I just feel like reimbursed flight with more legroom and free water and snacks is not enough,” she added.

Meanwhile, another passenger also said she was afraid the plane was going to crash.

The Boeing aircraft was not being used for flights to Hawaii after a warning light that could indicate a pressurization problem lit up on three different trips, federal officials revealed Sunday. Instagram/@strawberrvy via REUTE

“We literally thought we were going to die,” Sreysoar Un, who was on the flight with her 12-year-old son Josiah McCaul, told the Wall Street Journal.

Josiah said he saw his phone and a teddy bear his grandmother from Cambodia had given him fly out the hole, which was one row ahead of theirs.

The boy held his mom’s hand but could not speak with her because they had their oxygen masks on as the cabin was swept with freezing air, according to the news outlet.

“We declared an emergency,” the pilot said, according to a recording posted by “We are depressurized. We do need to return back.”

Another passenger, Christopher Hickman, 44, said he heard a woman shout: “My son’s shirt got ripped off!”

All of the Boeing 737 MAX 9 jetliners used by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines were grounded following the incident. AP

He told the Wall Street Journal that people thought a window had fallen off the aircraft.

“Is it OK if I hold your hand?” a woman seated next to Hickman asked him. He clasped the woman’s hand and that of his mother, Teresa.

“We were just all trying to comfort each other at that point,” Hickman told the Journal.

Evan Granger, a passenger seated in exit row seat 16F, told NBC News he heard a “loud boom” followed by “a gust of wind coming in” the cabin.

“I didn’t want to look back to see what was happening,” he said. “My focus in that moment was just to breathe into the oxygen mask and trust that the flight crew will do everything they can to keep us safe.”

Granger said that “there are so many things that had to go right in order for all of us to have survived,” adding that he was “very grateful” the plane landed safely.

Passenger Elizabeth Le also described hearing the loud noise.

“All of a sudden I heard like a big bang and I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I look up and the oxygen masks were hanging from the ceiling,” Le told the news outlet OC Hawk.

The chair described a chaotic scene when the torn-off door plug left a gaping hole in the side of the plane. AP

“And then I look to my left and there’s this huge chunk, part of the airplane is like missing,” she said, adding that passengers stayed in their seats and kept their seatbelts on.

“I couldn’t really think straight because of how loud the wind was,” Le said.​ “I just couldn’t believe my eyes. There’s a gaping hole. You could see the city and the stars and everything just outside of the window. It was crazy.”

The fallen door plug has been found by a Portland school teacher in his backyard, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy. AP

“We are really pleased that Bob found this,” said NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy, who would only release the teacher’s last name. “We’re gonna go pick that up and make sure that we begin analyzing it.

Homendy also revealed Sunday that the plane was not being used for flights to Hawaii after a warning light that could indicate a pressurization problem lit up on three prior flights.

Alaska Airlines restricted the aircraft from lengthy flights over water so the plane “could return very quickly to an airport” if the warning light went off, she said, but cautioned there was no known connection so far between the pressurization light and Friday’s near-diaster.

“We recognize how extremely distressing this incident must have been and we are grateful to you and our crew for everyone’s calm and patience throughout this experience. We will fully investigate this incident and work with the relevant authorities to understand what happened,” the airline said in an email after the Flight 1282 incident.

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