Passengers describe 'terror,' bleeding ears and no oxygen flow in lawsuit against Boeing

Seven passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines flight that had to make an emergency landing due to a door blowing out mid-flight are suing Boeing. 

Three of the seven passengers named in the suit are from western Washington. 

On Jan. 5, a flight from Portland to California had to turn around 13 minutes into the flight for an emergency landing after a door blew off mid-flight. 

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said the two seats next to the part that tore off were unoccupied. The headrests were gone on seats 26A and 25A and 26A was missing part of its seatback. Insulation from the walls was also pulled, she said.

The cockpit door also flew open and banged into a lavatory door. The force ripped the headset off the co-pilot and the captain lost part of her headset. 

The plane that suffered the blowout was a Boeing 737 Max 9, and about 171 of the planes worldwide were immediately grounded by federal officials on Saturday until they can be inspected.

READ MORE: FAA investigating if Boeing made sure a part that blew off a MAX 9 jet was made to design standards

In a lawsuit filed in King County on Thursday, seven plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for the "personal and economic harms" identified in the investigation. 

In that same suit, passengers claim the force of the depressurization ripped a shirt off a boy's body and sucked cell phones and much of the oxygen out of the aircraft. 

"The violence of the event bruised the bodies of some. The cockpit door blew open and a flight attendant rushed to try to close it. The pressure change made ears bleed and combined with low oxygen, loud wind noise and traumatic stress made heads ache severely. Passengers were shocked, terrorized and confused, thrust into a waking nightmare, hoping they would live long enough to walk the earth again," the suit said.  

Some passenger's oxygen masks didn't work, according to the suit.

One of the passengers from Washington said the blow-out gave her a concussion and soft tissue injuries to her neck and back, according to the suit. Her ears also experienced so much pressure that she thought her head would explode, and she ended up temporarily losing her hearing and had internal bleeding in her left ear,  

Another Washington passenger had difficulty breathing during the incident and started passing out. Their travel partner also had difficulty breathing and suffers from a seizure disorder that's generally triggered by stressful situations. The second person had a seizure when they disembarked. 


The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle plane that debuted in the late 1960s and has been updated many times. The 737 has long been a workhorse for airlines on U.S. domestic routes.

The aircraft involved was certified about two months ago, according to online FAA records, and had been on 145 flights since entering commercial service Nov. 11, said FlightRadar24, another tracking service. The flight from Portland was the aircraft’s third of the day.

It had also recently been restricted from long flights over water, specifically to Hawaii, Homendy said Sunday, after a pressurization warning light appeared on three different flights. It’s unclear if the pressurization light is related to the blowout.