Passengers Tell of Plunge in Jetliner

Associated Press

Passengers today told of being flung around a Thai jetliner like dolls after the plane with 247 people aboard plunged five miles before making an emergency landing at Osaka.

Thai Airways International officials said a rupture in a rear bulkhead depressurized the cabin, filling it with mist, on the Sunday night flight. Sixty-two people were injured, five of them seriously.

Airline officials in Bangkok said the pilot heard a "bang" in the rear of the aircraft while cruising at 33,000 feet, then lost two of his three hydraulic systems.

"So he decided to make an emergency landing," Capt. Yothin Pamornmontri, the airline's vice president for operations, told Thai newspapers.

Sucked Into Cargo Area

He said one passenger was sucked into the plane's cargo compartment but was rescued.

The accident occurred as Thai International's Flight 620, an A-300 Airbus, was approaching the western Japanese city on a flight from Bangkok and Manila.

News reports quoted passengers as saying there was a "big bang," then a white mist filled the main cabin, indicating a sudden loss of pressure. Those whose seat belts were not fastened were flung from their seats, and dishes and carry-on luggage flew about the cabin as the plane rocked violently and then went into its dive.

One passenger said it looked as if some of those aboard were "taking a space walk."

Oxygen masks dropped automatically as the crew fought to control the plunge.

Wild Cheers on Landing

Japan Transport Ministry officials said the plane, which carried 233 passengers and a crew of 14, plummeted from 33,000 feet to about 6,600 feet.

The passengers cheered wildly as the plane touched down at Osaka about 40 minutes after the mishap, 10 minutes behind schedule.

Hiroshi Fujiwara, deputy chief investigator of Japan's Aviation Accident Investigation Commission, told reporters after inspecting the plane today that it had ruptures in the rear pressure bulkhead that left a pattern like a pie cut into three pieces. The rear bulkhead divides the passenger cabin from the non-pressurized tail section.

He would not comment on what might have caused the bulkhead rupture.

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