Passengers pray as jetliner pops a hole

The breach in the aircraft's fuselage caused a loss of cabin pressure. No passengers were injured.
Passengers from a Southwest Airlines jet that made an emergency landing because of a hole in the fuselage made it to their original destination early Tuesday.

Southwest Flight 2294 made an emergency stop in Charleston, West Virginia, on Monday after a football-sized hole in its fuselage caused the cabin to depressurize, an airline spokeswoman said. There were no injuries aboard the Boeing 737, which was traveling at about 34,000 feet when the problem occurred, Southwest spokeswoman Marilee McInnis told CNN. The flight was en route from Nashville, Tennessee, to Baltimore, Maryland, with 126 passengers and a crew of five aboard, McInnis said. “About 45 minutes into the flight, there was a loud pop. No one really knew what it was,” passenger Steve Hall told CNN Radio. The plane landed at 5:10 p.m. after the crew reported the hole in the middle of the cabin near the top of the aircraft, McInnis said. The sudden drop in cabin pressure caused the jet’s oxygen masks to deploy. “We were seated about two rows back from the wing, and four rows back you heard this loud rush and your ears popped, and you could tell that part of the inside was trying to pull out,” passenger Sheryl Bryant told CNN affiliate WBAL-TV upon arriving in Baltimore. “And it was crazy — the oxygen masks dropped,” she continued. She put her mask on her face, then helped her 4- and 6-year-old children with theirs, she said. Bryant tried to stay calm and reassure her children, she said. Watch Bryant’s account of acting brave » “My kids and I, we prayed, and then we said, you know, life will be fine,” she said. Bryant praised the flight crew and ground personnel for keeping passengers informed and for giving clear instructions. “We have a tremendous talent represented in the pilots and the flight crew,” another passenger, Pastor Alvin Kibble, told WBAL-TV. “I think we need to value them far more than perhaps what we do. It’s very easy for us to begin to take things for granted.” What caused the damage to the jet had not been determined, McInnis said. Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident, FAA spokeswoman Holly Baker said. “There is no responsible way to speculate as to a cause at this point,” Southwest said in a statement Monday night. Watch as passenger describes watching the hole form » “We have safety procedures in place, and they were followed in this instance to get all passengers and crew safely on the ground,” the airline said. “Reports we have are that our passengers were calm and that our pilots and flight attendants did a great job getting the aircraft on the ground safely.” Southwest dispatched a replacement aircraft to take passengers on to Baltimore. See map of flight path » Charleston airport spokesman Brian Belcher said a local pizzeria provided food for the passengers while they waited. The damaged jet will remain on the ground in Charleston until federal inspectors can examine it, he said. In addition, all 181 of Southwest’s 737-300s — about a third of the airline’s fleet — were to be inspected overnight after the emergency landing, McInnis said. Southwest does not expect the inspections to create delays, she said.