SkyWest jet makes emergency landing in Buffalo; passenger passed out, airline says

Man who was aboard SkyWest flight that made emergency landing says crew announced 'pressure problem'

A Connecticut-bound SkyWest Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Buffalo International Airport on Wednesday morning after a passenger lost consciousness, the airline said. 

The plane may have also experienced a "pressurization problem," according to the Federal Aviation Administration, but an airline spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that a preliminary investigation found "no indication" that the plane experienced a drop in cabin pressure.

The flight, which took off from Chicago and was headed to Windsor Locks, Conn., landed safely in Buffalo at 11:40 a.m. EDT, according to an FAA statement.

The crew "reported a pressurization problem and declared an emergency" shortly before landing in Buffalo, the FAA said in its initial statement. In a second statement, released Wednesday afternoon, the FAA no longer mentioned a "pressurization problem."

An agency spokesman declined to say why the change was made.

An official with knowledge of the incident, however, told The Times that crew members initially reported that a door had opened while the plane was in flight, causing "rapid depressurization." 

That was later found to be untrue, according to the official, who was not authorized to discuss the incident with the media and requested anonymity.

Wes Horrocks, a spokesman for SkyWest airlines, told The Times that the airline is reviewing any and all factors that could have led the passenger to fall ill.

“When we don’t know exactly what may have led the passenger to lose consciousness, we want to rule out as many factors as possible," he said.

No one was hospitalized, according to Horrocks, who could not confirm reports that the crew initially claimed a door opened midflight.

The flight began descending sharply while flying over Lake Erie, dropping from 37,000 feet in altitude to around 10,000 feet before stabilizing on approach to Buffalo, according to data posted on FlightRadar24, a website that uses information from the FAA and other aviation sources to track flight patterns in the U.S.

Dave Barkley, 46, was seated near the front of the cabin and told The Times that a flight attendant raced toward the cockpit and said a woman had become sick. A short time later, a second woman lost consciousness, Barkley said.

The pilot then announced that the flight was going to descend "really quick" and make an emergency landing in Detroit, Barkley said.

The plane "dove down, just above the clouds," according to Barkley, before landing in Buffalo.

“They said there was a pressure problem with the plane," he said. "There was no door flying open or anything like that. It was something very gradual.”

SkyWest said on Twitter that the plane landed after a passenger lost consciousness midflight. Approximately 75 passengers were aboard the plane, the airline said. 

The passenger who lost consciousness received medical treatment at the Buffalo airport before being released, according to Hazel Sainsbury, an airline spokeswoman. Barkley, however, said up to six people were met by paramedics when the plane landed in Buffalo.

Barkley said the passengers were calm throughout the ordeal, but that many were annoyed by the way SkyWest described what happened.

“The way SkyWest is reporting it is that someone got sick, and they had to land," he told The Times. "But the way we understand it, they got sick because of the lack of oxygen or lack of pressure in the plane.”

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

1:44 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional information from SkyWest Airlines.

1:17 p.m.: This article has been updated with comments from a passenger who was aboard the plane.

12:13 p.m.: This article has been updated with information from SkyWest Airlines. 

11:32 a.m.: This article has been updated with information published by a flight tracking website.

This article was originally published at 11:23 a.m.

58°