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7 Alaska Airlines passengers sue over mid-air blowout, claiming "serious emotional distress"

DOJ opens probe into Alaska Airlines incident
Justice Department initiates criminal probe into Alaska Airlines incident 02:27

A passenger on the Alaska Airlines flight that had to make an emergency landing after a door plug blew off mid-flight claims he was only saved from being sucked out of the hole by his seatbelt. 

The passenger, Cuong Tran, was sitting in row 27 of Alaska Airlines flight 1242, immediately behind the door plug that gave way minutes after the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane departed Portland International Airport on January 5, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in King County Superior Court.

Tran, as well as six additional passengers on the flight, are suing Alaska Airlines, Boeing and door plug manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems, claiming the event left them with physical injuries and "serious emotional distress, fear, and anxiety." The claims follow an earlier lawsuit from three other passengers on the same flight, who are suing Boeing and the airline for $1 billion, claiming negligence caused the incident.

In the latest lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking punitive, compensatory and general damages, although the lawsuit doesn't specify an amount.

Cuong Tran, a passenger on Alaska Airlines flight 1242, was sitting in row 27, immediately behind the door plug that gave way minutes after the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane departed Portland International Airport on January 5, according to a new lawsuit. Wisner Baum

When the door plug blew out, Tran's shoes and socks were torn from his feet, according to an emailed statement from his attorney. His legs were pulled toward the hole, jerking his leg and causing it to get trapped in the seat structure in front of him. His seatbelt kept him from being sucked out of the plane, he added.

"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," said trial attorney Timothy A. Loranger in the statement.

Five other passengers, a family from Claremont, California, feared for their lives when the hole opened up on the side of the airplane, the lawyer said. The parents, Ket Tran and Tram Vo, and their three sons are now in counseling to deal with the trauma, Loranger added.

The seventh passenger who is suing, Huy Tran, was seated next to his friend Cuong Tran in Row 27, the lawyers said.

Ket Tran, center, and Tram Vo, right, were also passengers on the flight with their three sons, pictured here. The family is now in counseling after experiencing the trauma of the mid-flight blowout, their lawyers say.  Wisner Baum

Boeing declined to comment. In an email to CBS MoneyWatch, a Spirit Aerosystems spokesperson wrote, "Spirit does not comment on pending litigation. We continue to focus on our operations, customers, and people."

The lawsuit doesn't specifically mention the seatbelt keeping Tran from getting sucked out of the plane; those are details revealed in a statement issued by the law firm representing him. 

Attorney Loranger said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch, "The details of their harrowing experience, the full extent of their fear and injuries will come from them directly when they have an opportunity to testify at deposition and at trial."

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