Alaska Airlines accident: much more tragic, NTSB official says

No one was seated near the 'plug door' panel that became detached during a flight from Oregon to Southern California Friday, the NTSB's board chair said.

Alaska Airlines accident: much more tragic, NTSB official says
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Alaska Airlines accident: much more tragic, NTSB official says

No one was seated near the 'plug door' panel that became detached during a flight from Oregon to Southern California Friday, the NTSB's board chair said.Tragedy may have been averted Friday night when a panel of Boeing plane blew out as the Alaska Airlines flight traveled at 16,000 feet, an NTSB official said Saturday night.

Seats adjacent to the blowout, developed when a panel called a door plug detached from the plane, were not occupied, and the aircraft's altitude meant passengers were likely seated with seatbelts in use, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said during a news conference Saturday night.

Headrests became detached from two nearby passenger seats, the back of one seat was gone, and there was clothing left in the area following the accident, which depressurized the cabin and resulted in chaos, Homendy said.

"We are very, very fortunate here that this didn’t end up in something more tragic," the NTSB chair said. "No one was seated in 26A and 26B, where that door plug is."The flight was about 10 minutes from its departure airport, Portland International, when the panel detached at 6:38 p.m. Friday with 171 passengers and six crew members on board.

The passenger cabin was subject to rapid decompression after the panel detached and left a large hole in the port side of the aircraft, Homendy said.