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Worker trapped in underbelly of plane forces emergency return to Seattle

Worker trapped in underbelly of plane forces emergency return to Seattle
Alaska Airlines jets at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

An Alaska Airlines flight was forced to return to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport 14 minutes after takeoff Monday because a ground crew member apparently was trapped in the cargo hold, the airline said.

"Upon exiting, he told authorities he had fallen asleep," the airline said in a statement.

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The crew on the Boeing 737 heard banging coming from underneath Flight 448, which departed at 2:39 p.m. for Los Angeles, Alaska Airlines spokesman Cole Cosgrove said in an email.

Screaming could also be heard coming from underneath the plane, airport spokesman Kevin Jeffries said.

There were 170 passengers and six crew members on the flight, according to the airline.

After the plane landed, it was discovered that a ramp agent employed by Menzies Aviation was trapped in the cargo hold, the airline said.

The cargo hold is pressurized like the cabin, and the temperature is set depending on what is being hauled, Cosgrove said.

"For example, if we're transporting a pet, the pilots will make sure the temperature is comfortable for the animal," Cosgrove said. "If we're transporting perishable items, the area can be kept cooler. So there's some variation."

The ramp agent appeared not to be injured but was taken to a hospital as a precaution, the airline said.

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