Twenty-six passengers taken to hospital after jet packed with British holidaymakers makes emergency landing

Posted on 12:11 AM by Sameer Shah

Twenty-six Ryanair passengers were taken to hospital after a flight packed with British holidaymakers was forced to make an emergency landing in France.

Frightened passengers "whimpered" and "feared they were going to die" when the cabin of the Bristol to Barcelona flight lost pressure and oxygen masks dropped down.

The pilot diverted the aircraft and made an emergency landing at Limoges International Airport in France as a "safety precaution".

But terrified passengers today told how they had feared for their lives as the aircraft plummeted and a cold wind tore through the cabin.

Of the 168 passengers and seven crew, 26 were hospitalised with minor eardrum problems, emergency workers said.

Arctic explorer Pen Hadow and his wife, Mary, and their son and daughter were among those on the flight.

Mr Hadow, who became the first man to walk solo and unsupported from the northern coast of Canada to the North Pole in 2003, said many of the passengers appeared to be in shock.

He said: "I would say some people thought we were going to die - that is how frightening it was. The woman sitting in the seats in front of us was whimpering."

Mr Hadow described hearing a "loud and unnerving sound" as the cabin pressure dropped.

"I knew it wasn't an engine problem," he said. "There was a sudden drop in temperature and a rush of cold air.

'You think to yourself: God, is there a hole in the aircraft? It actually felt like someone had opened a door at the back of the aircraft. It was incredibly cold.

"The next thing the oxygen masks were dropping. My highest priority was to get a mask onto my son who was sitting next to me in a bemused and frightened state.

"We were descending for about five minutes from what I assume was 30,000 or 40,000ft to 8,000ft. As we landed we saw fire engines every quarter of a mile down the runway.

"It was obvious to me that there was depressurisation in the cabin but there was no announcement and no evidence of the cabin crew for most of this experience. Why on earth didn't they give a few more calming words to the passengers?"

He added some people had cried with relief when the plane landed safely, while others had clapped.

Mr Hadow, whose son was one of those taken to hospital after the incident, said a number of oxygen masks inside the cabin had failed to inflate.

"Mine wasn't filling up with oxygen and neither was my son's," he said. "He was hyperventilating. I looked at the lady on my left and her's hadn't filled up either.

'From where I was sitting I could see about 20 masks and only a few of them were inflating. It was extremely variable as to who got oxygen in their masks, and the cabin crew didn't seem to know what to do.

A Ryanair spokeswoman said: "Ryanair confirms that the FR9336 from Bristol airport to Barcelona Girona airport on the evening of August 25 experienced an in-flight depressurisation incident which caused the oxygen masks on board to deploy.

"As a safety precaution the captain descended and diverted the aircraft to Limoges Airport at approximately 23.30 local French time.

"All 168 passengers disembarked safely upon landing. A total of 16 passengers together with five accompanying family members have transferred, at their request, to a local hospital complaining of ear ache.

"As a precaution Limoges Airport have arranged a local doctor to be available to any other passengers should they require."

The spokeswoman said a replacement aircraft would take passengers on to Spain this morning.

The Ryanair spokeswoman said the flight crew would have followed the correct procedures during the incident and appropriate announcements would have been made to keep passengers informed.

The airline said it was sending an engineer to Limoges to try to determine what caused the pressure loss.

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