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'I Can't Breathe!': Hear Panicked 911 Call of Man Trapped in Jet's Baggage Hold

The man who was trapped in an airborne jet's baggage compartment told a 911 operator: "Can you please tell somebody stop it? ... I can't breathe!"
/ Source: NBC News

The man who woke up from a nap and found himself trapped in the baggage compartment of an airborne jet called 911 in a panic, screaming, "I ... can't ... breathe!" from the belly of Alaska Airlines Flight 448 this week.

The man told NBC News Thursday in a brief phone interview that he feels "good" but "tired" and was back at his job as a contract worker at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. But a spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines told NBC News later in the day that he had been permanently barred from working for the airline.

In the 911 call, released earlier Thursday, the man never makes it clear to a confused but persistent female operator that he's an airport worker trapped in the plane's sealed baggage hold — as opposed to a traveler having a panic attack in the passenger cabin.

"I'm inside a plane. I feel like it's moving in the air," he tells the operator. "Flight 448. Can you please tell somebody stop it?"

The operator has the presence of mind to ask: "Where are you in a plane at?"

But the trapped man, already beginning to sound panicked, can say only: "I'm inside the plane. Alaska Airlines Flight 448. "

The operator asks, "Are you at the airport?"

Then, when asked whether there's someone with him, he screams, with long pauses between words: "I ... can't ... breathe!"

Then there's an anguished howl, and the phone disconnects. When the operator calls back, it goes directly to voicemail. Working through the phone carrier's court records request process, she manages to get the man's name and address and calls another local police dispatch.

"I just had this guy call, and he said he was on Alaska Flight 448, and he was screaming at me and saying he couldn't breathe and he was stuck on the flight," she tells the dispatcher.

That dispatcher then fills in the blanks saying, "So, we are actually getting an aircraft landing right now where we think someone is trapped in the baggage compartment."

It's the first time the 911 operator has heard that detail, and she replies: "Oh! Oh, my gosh! OK."

While the baggage compartment was pressurized and air-conditioned — meaning the worker was in no real danger — it appears clear that he didn't realize that when he made the call as the plane was taking off.

Alaska Airlines said he's passed a drug test and was released from the hospital shortly after the incident, which forced an emergency landing.


— With Bryan Lavietes