The pilot of a Southwest Airlines flight reportedly got on the cabin loudspeaker and told passengers the words nobody on any plane wants to hear.
"He said, 'We're going down.' And everyone is looking around like, is this a joke? Is he serious? And then you felt the nosedive," passenger Shelley Wills told WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
Passengers on Tuesday night's flight from Tampa, Fla. to Raliegh-Durham pulled out cell phones after hearing the news, Willis told WTVD. Willis tried texting her daughter and her husband but the messages failed to go through.
"It says, "I love you Alyssa. My plane is going down,'" she told WTVD. "I thought I was going to die and that's what everyone on that plane thought. That we were all going to die, just by one word of the captain. I just think they could have handled it a little differently."
Wills, a nurse, tried helping a first-time flier who was next to her who was clutching her chest.
"I'm thinking, Oh my God, she's going to scare herself into a heart attack," Wills told WTVD.
A few minutes later the Boeing 737 leveled out and made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
The pilot came on the loudspeaker again, Wills told WTVD, and offered these final words: "Thank you for hanging with us."
Southwest Airlines issued this statement regarding the incident:
Flight 3426 experienced a maintenance alert as they were on descent into RDU. The Captain declared an emergency and descended the aircraft to 25,000 feet where the alert was resolved. Throughout the remainder of the descent the flight was normal, landed uneventfully, and was not met by emergency vehicles. Michelle Agnew, Southwest Airlines communication specialist
The maintenance alert went off due to irregular cabin pressure, WTVD reported, adding that the FAA is investigating.