Passenger Recalls Southwest Flight With Hole In Roof - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Passenger Recalls Southwest Flight With Hole In Roof

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Southwest Airlines 737 aircraft that originated in Nashville made an emergency landing in Charleston after the passenger cabin became depressurized because a hole appeared in the fuselage.

Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority spokesman Brian Belcher said Flight 2294 was diverted to Yeager Airport and landed shortly after 6:30 p.m. Monday. There were 126 passengers and five crew members on board.

John Benson of Knoxville was on Flight 2294 with his two sons. Benson was planning on taking his sons to New York by way of Baltimore. What was supposed to be a nice family trip, quickly turned into one of the most frightening experiences of his life.

"Literally the whole top of the plane ripped off," said Benson.

Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis said a football-sized hole was located mid-cabin, near the top of the aircraft.

Benson captured cell phone video from the Southwest flight. The sky can actually be seen through a hole in the ceiling that was peeled back. It has not been said what caused the hole, but Benson said he had to calm his children down after a rough takeoff.   

After takeoff, Benson thought everything was fine - until about a half hour into the flight. Part of the plane peeled open, causing it to lose cabin pressure. Then the oxygen masks dropped.

"When we looked out the windows all we saw are mountains, and they told us we're about to land. You know everyone's looking out the windows saying, 'Where are we gonna land?' My friend Julie asked the attendant, 'Are we gonna land at the airport?' and she said, 'no we aren't going to make it to the airport,'" said Benson.

According to Benson, the flight crew told them the closest airport was seven away. Benson said it was the longest seven minutes of his life.

"It's just hard for me to understand how a plane can just literally fall apart right above your heard when you're flying in it. We were a couple of thousand feet in the air when it started tearing apart," said Benson.

Thankfully, the plane landed at Yeager airport, where a replacement plane was waiting to take the passengers to Baltimore.

Of the 131 crew and passengers on board, no one was hurt. Benson said his family will continue their journey to New York, just not on a plane.

"Having my children there just really just was tremendous for me. To think that something could happen to them and me be there with them. You know, it was just a lot for me," said Benson.

The National Transportation Safety Board said they have been trying to determine what might have caused the damage.

Southwest said Tuesday that it inspected all 181 of its identical Boeing 737-300-series jets overnight before putting them back in the sky.

(Contributed By The Associated Press)  

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