Boy's shirt ripped off body after air pressure explosion tears hole in Alaska Airlines plane

Story by Jay Croft of CNN

It happened in a moment: The Boeing 737 Max-9 was gaining altitude after taking off from Portland. Then a loud boom - an explosion - then a rush of air and screams as a refrigerator-sized hole was left in the side of the 220-passenger plane.

A boy's shirt was ripped clean off his body, flying out the hole, amid the air pressure loss after a part of the plane's fuselage blew off. Some passengers screamed and cried, drafting text messages to their loved ones as a rush of air entered the plane and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling.

Nick Hoch, a 33-year-old passenger on the plane, called the ordeal "traumatic," "tense," and "jarring," in a phone interview with CNN.

"A mist or cloud whooshed past me that kind of hit me in the face," he said. "People's hair was flying all over the place."

After the initial "boom," he said the plane "kind of jolted." Oxygen masks fell, everyone put them on and he said he felt disoriented.

"I was pretty startled and frightened, and I think other folks were pretty distraught as well."

Passenger oxygen masks hang down near the huge hole in the side of the plane.
Passenger oxygen masks hang down near the huge hole in the side of the plane. Photo credit: Instagram @strawberrvy

Hoch said he was sitting on the left side of the plane a couple of rows in front of where the panel blew off. "There were people much closer who I spoke with who lost AirPods out of their ears," he said.

Soon after the portion of the plane blew off, Hoch said people were "remarkably calm," as they sat quietly listening to the flight crew.

Hoch told CNN the flight crew and pilot did a magnificent job. He said they were calming and reassuring. "There were a few frantic passengers but mostly everybody was calm," he said.

The flight had reached 16,000 feet after taking off from Portland, Oregon, bound for Ontario, California, about 5:07 p.m., according to FlightAware.

Shortly after takeoff, a panel, including a window, popped off, passenger Kyle Rinker told CNN. "It was really abrupt. Just got to altitude, and the window/wall just popped off."

"We'd like to get down," the pilot told air traffic control, according to a recording posted on "We are declaring an emergency. We do need to come down to 10,000."

The plane landed safely about 20 minutes later back at the airport, with no serious injuries among the 171 passengers and six crew members. One person was taken to a hospital.

Alaska Airlines temporarily grounded the rest of its Boeing 737-9 Max fleet and says they are inspecting the plug doors on all their jets. The "plug door" refers to a portion of the plane's fuselage the manufacturer can put in place instead of an emergency exit door, depending on the configuration requested by an airline.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Saturday said it was grounding many aircraft of the model for inspections, affecting 171 jets used by airlines.

Passenger Emma Vu said passengers comforted each other during the ordeal.

"The flight attendant came over, too, and told me it was going to be OK," Vu told CNN. "The fact that everyone was kind of freaking out and she took that time to kind of make me feel like I was the only passenger - honestly that was really sweet."

Passengers applauded as the plane landed, King's video shows.

Some passengers stood up. Flight attendants reminded them to remain seated.

One man can be heard saying, "There's a f--in' hole inside the plane. What the f-- is that?"