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Seat belt saved passenger’s life on Boeing 737 jet that suffered a blowout, new lawsuit says

Passengers aboard the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 jet when part of its fuselage blew out in January filing lawsuits

By Associated Press
Published: March 15, 2024, 7:48am

SEATTLE (AP) — More passengers who were aboard an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 jet when part of its fuselage blew out in January are suing — including one who says his life was saved by a seat belt.

The latest lawsuit, representing seven passengers, was filed in Washington’s King County Superior Court Thursday against Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Spirit AeroSystems and 10 people listed as John Does.

Cuong Tran, of Upland, California, was sitting in the row behind where the side of the aircraft tore away and left a door-sized hole on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 on Jan. 5, according to a news release from attorney Timothy A. Loranger. Loranger, who filed the lawsuit, said air rushed out of the hole, pulling on Tran and others nearby.

The suction tore Tran’s shoes and socks from his feet and he felt his body lift off his seat, the news release said, adding that Tran’s foot was hurt when it was jerked into the seat structure in front of him.

“Our clients — and likely every passenger on that flight — suffered unnecessary trauma due to the failure of Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems, and Alaska Airlines to ensure that the aircraft was in a safe and airworthy condition,” Loranger said.

The lawsuit seeks punitive, compensatory and general damages for alleged negligence, product construction/manufacturing defect liability and failing in its duty to protect passengers from harm.

Boeing responded to an email Thursday seeking comment saying, “We have nothing to add.” Alaska Airlines and Spirit AeroSystems didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

The first six minutes of the flight from Portland, Oregon, to Southern California’s Ontario International Airport had been routine, the Boeing 737 Max 9 about halfway to its cruising altitude and traveling at more than 400 mph (640 kph). Then the piece of fuselage covering an inoperative emergency exit behind the left wing blew out.

The pilots made an emergency landing back where they started in Portland. No one was seriously hurt.

Another lawsuit against Boeing and Alaska Airlines was filed last month on behalf of 22 other passengers on the flight, also accusing the companies of negligence.

In a preliminary report last month, the National Transportation Safety Board said four bolts that help keep the door plug in place were missing after the panel was removed so workers could repair nearby damaged rivets last September. The rivet repairs were done by contractors working for Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems.

Boeing, under increased scrutiny since the incident, has acknowledged in a letter to Congress that it cannot find records for work done on the door panel of the Alaska Airlines plane.

The Department of Justice has also launched a criminal investigation. The probe would assist the department’s review of whether Boeing complied with a settlement that resolved a federal investigation into the safety of its 737 Max aircraft after two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019.