An Alaska Airlines flight — bound for Los Angeles out of Seattle — was forced to make an emergency landing Monday after passengers and flight crew learned someone was locked in the plane’s cargo hold, officials with the airline are saying.
KOMO News reports Flight 448 had just taken off from Sea-Tac Airport at 2:39 p.m. when passengers and flight crew members reported to the pilot that they heard a loud banging and possibly a voice coming from the cargo hold area underneath the passenger cabin.
“As we were taking off, the plane accelerated. The passengers in first class heard banging from underneath us and a person yelling for help," passenger Jesse Sycuro told KING News. "Two air marshals that were on board quickly jumped up and conferred with a flight attendant. That message was relayed up to the pilots.”
Shortly after that the pilots announced they were turning the plane around, Sycuro said, adding that the air marshals continued communicating with the trapped passenger.
That passenger turned out to be a ground crew worker who later told officials he had fallen asleep on the job, and was taking a nap in the cargo hold when the plane took off.
According to KCPQ News, the worker is an employee of Menzies Aviation, a contractor for Alaska Airlines.
“He told first responders who spoke with him that he boarded the cargo hold and was taking a nap prior to the aircraft taking off,” Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan told KIRO News.
Alaska Airlines told KCPQ the man was a part of a four-man team. Because his shift was scheduled to end at 2:30 p.m., coworkers reportedly assumed he had gone home for the day when they noticed he was missing before the plane’s departure.
Egan said Alaska Airlines is reviewing procedures in light of the mishap.
“We’re clearly investigating every detail to make sure we can understand how this could have happened and to look at all our procedures to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she told KCPQ.
The ground crew worker, who has not been named, was taken to a nearby hospital, checked over and released. He was in the air for about 14 minutes in a pressurized and climate-controlled cargo area that is used for transporting pets.
He had no reported injuries and reportedly passed a drug screening Monday afternoon.
Menzies Aviation has not commented on the incident.
Photo Credit: KING News, KOMO News