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Alaska Airlines passenger injured when door flew off mid-flight is suing airline

by Staff

An Alaska Airlines passenger injured when the Boeing door panel blew out at 16,000 feet said he was left “holding on for dear life” as his shoes and cell phone were sucked through the large gap next to him.

Cuong Tran, 40, told the BBC he’d been planning to take a nap while on the Jan. 5 flight with a friend when terror struck soon after takeoff.

“The captain said we had passed 10,000 feet. Then the hole blew out on us,” he said.

Cuong Tran, 40, was injured onboard an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5. Wisner Baum

“I remember my body getting lifted up. Then my whole lower body got sucked down by howling wind.”

“It was probably the first time in my life I had a feeling of no control over everything,” he said, recalling looking back at other passengers in shock as he clung on.

“I was in disbelief over the whole situation,” he said, describing the “feeling of no control” as being “pretty terrifying.”

“The suction was so strong and I was hanging on for dear life,” he recalled.

“Both my shoes ended up getting sucked out — I had my shoe on pretty tight, too,” he said, adding that his phone also “disappeared.”

The entire ordeal lasted about half an hour before the plane made an emergency landing at Portland International Airport, but Tran said it “felt like a lot longer.”

Tran was sitting next to a friend just one row behind the section of the plane that blew off just after takeoff. Wisner Baum

“I had no phone, so [I] had no idea of the time, so I was just sat there staring into the hole this whole time and hoped it wouldn’t get any more damage,” he explained.

“That was the scariest moment — the waiting.”

When the plane safely arrived back at the Portland airport, Tran and six other passengers, as well as a flight attendant, were treated for minor injuries.

When the plane safely arrived back at the Portland airport, Tran and six other passengers, as well as one flight attendant, were treated for minor injuries. Wisner Baum

He is now recovering with a “big scar” on his leg that may continue to leave a mark, he said.

Tran is one of several passengers suing Alaska Airlines, Boeing and manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems for injuries they endured on the nightmarish flight.

They claim in the suit filed in King County Superior Court in Washington state that the event left them with “serious emotional distress, fear and anxiety,” according to the BBC.

He said he is now recovering, but was left with a “big scar” on his leg that may continue to leave a mark. Wisner Baum

The lawsuit seeks punitive, compensatory and general damages for alleged negligence, product construction/manufacturing defect liability and failing in its duty to protect passengers from harm.

“Our clients — and likely every passenger on that flight — suffered unnecessary trauma due to the failure of Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, and Alaska Airlines to ensure that the aircraft was in a safe and airworthy condition,” attorney Timothy a Loranger said.

He added to the BBC that Tran’s “leg was almost sucked out of the airplane.”

“It is just terrifying,” he said.

The litigation process, though, may take “a couple of years” because there are so many people involved, Loranger noted.

Another lawsuit against Boeing and Alaska Airlines was filed last month on behalf of 22 other passengers on the flight, who are also accusing the companies of negligence.

In the aftermath of the tumultuous flight, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that four bolts that secure the door plug had been missing before it flew off the plane.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that four bolts that secure the door plug had been missing before it flew off the plane. via REUTERS

The Federal Aviation Administration also discovered dozens of issues involving Boeing’s 737 MAX jet production process, including mechanics at one of its key suppliers using a hotel key card and dish soap as makeshift tools to test compliance.

It found that Boeing failed 33 out of 89 product audits — a review of specific aspects in the production line — with a total of 97 counts of alleged noncompliance, according to The New York Times.

It has also emerged that the day before that flight, engineers and technicians were so concerned about mounting warnings they wanted to take the jet out of service for maintenance after the scheduled flight to Canada.

But Alaska Airlines kept the plane in service with some restrictions, according to the Times.

Airline officials confirmed the sequence of events to the Times, but said that the warnings did not meet its standards for immediately removing the plane from service.

The Post has reached out to Boeing, Alaska Airlines and Spirit Aerosystems for comment.

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