The door plug that blew off 16,000 feet over Oregon on Friday from an Alaska Airlines plane during a flight has been found in the backyard of a Portland school teacher, Federal officials reported on Sunday. Besides, two cellphones that belonged to two passengers were also found thousands of feet below on the ground.
The crucial find was announced by the National Transportation Safety Board two days after the Boeing 737 MAX 9 had to make an emergency landing due to a missing door plug, which had left a major opening in the aircraft and posed a major threat to the safety of the more than 170 people on board.
Located Thousands of Feet Away
The door plug was eventually located in the backyard of a suburban home in Portland. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy expressed her relief at its recovery.
"We are really pleased that Bob found this," said Homendy, who would only divulge the educator's last name.
"We're gonna go pick that up and make sure that we begin analyzing it," she said at a press briefing just moments after learning it was located.
More information about the plug, such as the specific location where it landed, was not disclosed. Homendy said that details about its condition, whether it was intact or damaged, were not immediately available.
The door "plug" was one of the few items that was found after it detached from the Alaska Airlines jet. Among the findings were two cell phones that were sucked out of the plane due to the rapid depressurization caused by the gaping hole at approximately 16,000 feet.
One of the cellphones, an iPhone, was found by video game designer Sean Bates who picked it up while on a walk. Bates mentioned in a series of posts on X that the fully functional phone was still in airplane mode and had around half of its battery life remaining.
Upon contacting the National Transportation and Safety Bureau, Bates was told that this was the second phone of such nature to be found. In a follow-up post, Bates shared that the charger plug was still connected to the phone, suggesting it had been forcibly pulled out.
The flight, which had 171 passengers and six crew members on board, took off from Portland International Airport and was en route to Ontario, California. However, the pilots had to quickly return to Portland airport as the hole in the aircraft led to the suction of belongings and chair headrests.
Oxygen masks were deployed for the alarmed passengers during the incident.
"It was described as chaos, very loud between the air and everything going on around them and it was very violent when the rapid decompression and the door was expelled out of the plane," Homendy said.
The NTSB chair thanked the flight crew for effectively managing the perilous situation and ensuring the safety of all passengers on the damaged plane.
Earlier on Sunday, the NTSB issued a plea to residents and business owners, urging them to review any doorbell footage, check their yards, or climb onto their roofs to search for the door plug or other items from the Boeing 737.
Officials emphasized that inspecting these items would contribute to understanding the reason for the failure.
Before Bob's discovery, Homendy jokingly remarked over the weekend, "If it's sitting in somebody's backyard, I would like to see it," as reported by CNN.
On Sunday, Homendy mentioned that she planned to personally contact Bob to thank him after he sent photos of the door plug to the NTSB.