An Alaska Airlines flight made an emergency landing in Seattle on Monday afternoon after the pilot heard banging from within the aircraft, which officials said came from a ramp worker who had fallen asleep in the cargo hold.
Alaska Airlines Flight 448, bound for Los Angeles, was in the air 14 minutes before turning around, according to a brief statement released by the airline.
Jamie Davis, a passenger, said it was just about when the nose was lifting off the ground that "we started hearing yelling for help and whatnot."
"It was just loud pounding," Davis said. "You know, it sounded like there was something stuck in the wheel well of a car or something, is what the pounding sounded like. It was just him pounding to get the plane to stop."
The captain declared an emergency and returned to Seattle, the airline said. "After landing, a ramp agent was found inside the front cargo hold, which is pressurized and temperature-controlled."
The airline said the agent, an employee of Menzies Aviation, "told authorities he had fallen asleep." A source familiar with the incident told NBC News the worker had apparently taken a nap in the cargo hold and didn't wake up until the plane was in the air.
The airline said that the ramp agent "appeared OK" but was transported to a hospital as a precaution.
The incident is under investigation.