Watch CBS News

Video Captures Moments Before Aircraft Bound For LAX Was Forced To Land On Tiny Island

SAN PEDRO ( — Cellphone video captured frightening moments when an aircraft headed for Los Angeles International Airport was forced to land at a military airport on a tiny island.

The incident Wednesday involving the Cathay Pacific aircraft was captured on tape by Ethan Williams and marked the scariest moment in his life to date.

"Something is not right," Williams is heard saying in the clip while flying over the Pacific Ocean. "All of the flight attendants are running around like crazy."

A terrifying announcement by flight attendants is then heard over the intercom: "We're going to do an emergency landing [unintelligible] to make an emergency ditch."

Williams says at that point they were preparing for the worst-case scenario, which would have been having to ditch at sea.

"We were getting told you had to take your shoes off and leave everything behind and what we needed to do and where our nearest exits were going to be and making sure we had our jackets on properly," Williams said.

Cathay Pacific says its initial investigation found that a broken fan in the forward cargo compartment set off a smoke alarm.

It says its pilots made the right call to land the plane.

The 25-year-old English tourist said the experience he described as "surreal" was the first time in his life he thought he might not survive.

"I actually wrote a little note on my phone to my family [saying] 'I love you.' Just simple, clean, and just in case the worst happens," he said.

Then, 10 minutes after it all began, he heard another announcement: "It will be a normal landing," said the flight attendant at Shemya military airport in the Aleutians Island near Alaska.

"Happiness," is what Williams said he felt when they touched down. "You knew that that's it, down on the ground, and there was applause."

Despite the ordeal, Williams plans to continue on to New York, Canada, Australia and beyond.

In all, it took two planes and more than 30 hours for the 276 passengers to make it to L.A. from Hong Kong.

The airline says it gave each passenger a $300 gift card as any apology for the inconvenience.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.