How it happens6:39Alaska Airlines passenger involved in lawsuit says ‘I literally thought I was going to die’

Huy Tran can’t stop thinking about the day part of the plane he was on was torn off mid-flight, leaving a door-shaped hole just meters from his seat.

Tran was a passenger on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, the Boeing 737, which was forced to make an emergency landing on January 5 after a part of the plane covering a non-functional emergency exit behind the left wing exploded.

“I literally thought I was going to die,” the Upland, California, man said How it happens Host Nil Köksal. “And this whole terrible experience continues to this day.”

He is one of seven passengers who filed a lawsuit Thursday against Alaska Airlines, aerospace company Boeing and manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court in Washingtonseeks punitive, compensatory and general damages for alleged negligence, liability for product design/manufacture defects and breach of its duty to protect passengers from harm.

Boeing, Alaska Airlines and Spirit AeroSystems all declined to comment on the pending litigation.

He didn’t know what was real

Flight 1282 had 171 passengers and six crew members on board and was flying at an altitude of more than 15,000 feet (4,800 meters) when a door plug – a panel in place of an optional exit door in the rear of the plane – tore off about 20 minutes into the evening flight on January 5 from Portland, Oregon , to Ontario, California.

Tran remembers the moment vividly. He says he tilted his head back and closed his eyes when he heard a “whooshing sound.”

“I immediately opened my eyes and there was already a huge hole in the plane,” he said. “I wasn’t really sure if that was really happening.”

Two pictures next to each other.  On the left, a man is pictured from the back of an airplane, sitting hunched over in his seat, directly behind a gaping, rectangular hole in the side of the plane.  On the right is a close-up of his bare feet, both bruised and one swollen.
Cuong Tran sat directly behind the exploded panel. He says the pressure ripped off his shoes and socks and injured his foot. (Wisner tree)

It quickly became clear that it was all too real.

He was sitting in the middle seat, one row behind the hole – close enough, he says, that he could have stuck his hand out the side of the plane.

The sound of the wind pressure was overwhelming, he said. He and the other passengers could only communicate through facial expressions. The biting cold wind made him wonder if he would freeze to death.

He immediately texted his girlfriend to tell her he loved her and asked her to tell his family he loved her too.

Meanwhile, his friend Cuong Tran, no relation, sat next to him in the window seat, about a foot from the hole.

The pressure ripped Cuong’s cell phone from his hand and ripped his shoes and socks off his feet. His foot got caught in the seating structure in front of him, injuring it so badly that he couldn’t walk on it for weeks, Huy Tran said.

Cuong told the BBC He believes he would have been pulled from the plane if he had not been wearing a seatbelt.

“I remember my body being lifted. Then my whole lower body was sucked down by the howling wind,” he said. “It was probably the first time in my life that I felt like I had no control over anything.”

“Someone is responsible for this”

Both men were on their way home from a trip to Oregon with their two friends and three children when the accident occurred. All seven are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“Our customers – and likely every passenger on this flight – suffered unnecessary trauma because Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems and Alaska Airlines failed to ensure the aircraft was in a safe and airworthy condition,” said attorney Timothy A. Loranger, who filed the lawsuit the suit, said in a press release.

Three pictures next to each other.  Left close-up of a smiling man.  In the middle is a smiling couple and their three children.  On the right, a man with glasses holds a lobster.
Plaintiffs in a new lawsuit related to the Alaskan Airlines bankruptcy are Huy Tran (left), Cuong Tran (right), Ket Tran and Tram Vo (center) and their three children. (Wisner tree)

A separate lawsuit was filed last month against Boeing and Alaska Airlines on behalf of 22 other passengers on the flight, also accusing the companies of negligence. Both companies denied any liability in this case.

In a preliminary report last month, the National Transportation Safety Board said four screws holding the door stopper in place were missing after the panel was removed so workers could repair damaged rivets nearby last September. The rivet repairs were carried out by contractors from Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems.

Boeing, which has been under increased scrutiny since the incident, admitted in a letter to Congress that it could find no record of work on the door panel of the Alaska Airlines plane.

The US Department of Justice has also launched a criminal investigation. The investigation would help the department examine whether Boeing complied with a settlement that ended a federal investigation into the safety of its 737 Max plane after two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

A former Boeing employee who had reportedly raised concerns about the company’s production problems died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound earlier this week, according to a coroner’s report.

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With the story still in the news, Tran says she is constantly forced to relive these moments. He complains, he says, because he wants answers.

“Ultimately I want to know who takes responsibility for this. Because I’ve already heard Boeing and Alaska trying to say it’s not their fault. And that just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Someone is responsible for this.”

Tran is a field technician and says he sometimes has to travel for work. But his next flight after Jan. 5 didn’t go well, he says.

“Every little noise triggered me or made me suspicious or questioned myself,” he said.

He hasn’t flown since, he said.

“This can’t happen to other people,” he said. “Bringing attention to this should hopefully force them to correct this and get the confidence back so people can fly again. Because right now it doesn’t feel safe.”

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