April 2, 2011 in Nation/World

Decompression forces Southwest flight down

Passenger’s photo shows hole in cabin
Walter Berry Associated Press
Associated Press photo

In this photo by passenger Brenda Reese, passengers take photos with cellphones of an apparent hole in a Southwest Airlines aircraft Friday in Yuma, Ariz.
(Full-size photo)

PHOENIX – A Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to California was diverted Friday to a military base in Yuma, Ariz., due to rapid decompression in the plane, federal officials said.

Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Los Angeles, said the cause of the decompression wasn’t immediately known. He said the pilot “made a rapid, controlled descent from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet altitude after the incident occurred.”

Some passengers aboard Flight 812 to Sacramento said a hole in the cabin caused a rapid descent.

“It dropped pretty quick,” said passenger Brenda Reese, who provided cellphone photographs of the cabin damage on the Boeing 737. The pictures showed a panel that was hanging open in a section above the aisle.

“It’s at the top of the plane, right up above where you store your luggage,” Reese said. “The panel’s not completely off. It’s like ripped down, but you can see completely outside. … When you look up through the panel, you can see the sky.”

Reese said the plane had just left Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport when she awoke after hearing a “gunshot-like sound” in the cabin and oxygen masks dropped for passengers and flight attendants.

Southwest officials said there were no injuries among the 118 people aboard. However, Reese said “there were some people that were passing out because they weren’t getting the oxygen.”

Authorities said the plane landed safely at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station/International Airport about 40 minutes after takeoff. Gregor said an FAA inspector was en route to investigate.

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