A passenger on the United Airlines flight that plunged more than 28,000 feet recounted the moment she thought she was “going to die” as the plane descended abruptly.
Tato Lovere, a Jersey City artist, was on Flight 510 with her boyfriend flying to Rome to celebrate her birthday and also meet gallerists. Around 10.07pm she felt a “sick feeling” overcoming her as the plane started to nosedive, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
“You saw people’s heads turning, you had people looking at each other, you had people looking for answers without screaming,” she told The New York Post.
“I tried the best I could first to text message my daughter without causing fear, of letting her know I love her very much and I am proud of her,” she said.
She later learned that while she was in the air, her daughter had been tracking the plane online, seeing in real-time that her mother’s plane started to spin in circles over Nova Scotia in Canada.
“She was on the phone with United asking them about why she saw her mother’s flight [was] going in circles over Halifax,” Ms Lovere said. “United told her everything [was] fine.”
Meanwhile, on the plane, the 240 passengers and 14 crew members plunged into panic as they started to tilt down only just under four hours into their flight.
“You literally thought you’re going to die,” Ms Lovere added.
Even before the horrifying plunge, Ms Lovere said that the pilot and flight crew were announcing over the speakers repeatedly, telling passengers the aircraft may have some potential issues.
According to the New York Post, the pilot came on the speakers to say that the plane may make an emergency landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but instead, they decided to reroute back to Newark Liberty International Airport, where they just departed from.
The Federal Aviation Administration, the governing body that regulates air traffic in the US, said that the plane experienced a “pressurisation issue”, which forced it to return back to the US.
In a video shared by Ms Lovere to the New York Post, a United Airlines pilot told passengers back at the New Jersey airport that there had been a “six or eight-inch hole on the side of the airplane, so that’s what caused our pressurisation issue.”
In a statement to The Messenger, a spokesperson for United Airlines said that they returned to the airport to make sure the cabin pressure was not compromised. They said “the flight landed safely and there was never any loss of cabin pressure” and confirmed there were no injuries.
Ms Lovere and her boyfriend, along with other passengers, were booked on the next United Airlines flight out Rome around seven hours later, yet the experience has left her more wary about flying.
“I’m definitely going to be on edge” on planes, she said. “I probably will be checking every window now, every crack walking by.”