CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — Federal aviation officials are inspecting SkyWest Airlines Flight 5622’s twin engine jet for any mechanical malfunctions or other irregularities that could have caused three people to lose consciousness, leading to an emergency landing Wednesday morning in Buffalo.
The sudden illnesses led the fly crew to suspect an air pressure problem, and send the plane hurtling 20,000 downward in just a few minutes to a safer level, then eventually land the plane at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Mary Cunningham is a nurse, who was the only passenger on SkyWest Flight 5622 with medical experience, and recalled even she felt the ill effects.
“I was short of breath, I felt like I was going to faint. I know the fligh attendant looked like she was about to faint. There was definitely something going on.”
Cunningham confirmed there were as many as three passengers that required medical attention on the plane before it made the emergency landing in Buffalo.
The sudden descent of thousands of feet within a matter of minutes might have led to other issues that were addressed by medical personnel, once the plane was on the ground.
NFTA spokesman Doug Hartmayer told News 4, passengers and crew members requested help, “It is my understanding we treated around 22 individuals yesterday, as part of the SkyWest plane that was diverted to Buffalo.”
Hartmayer said there were three teams on hand to help: the Airport’s Crash, Fire, and Rescue Unit, three ambulances from Rural Metro, and Erie County’s SMART team, which includes doctors.
“Some people were complaining of dizziness, nausea–I know oxygen was given to some people,” he said. “We tested people for oxygen deprivation which is simply putting something on their finger.”
The Federal Aviation Administration is leading the investigation, with technical assistance from SkyWest, to find out what got the passengers sick in the skies over Buffalo.
Passenger Emily Summers who was flying with her 8 month old son, said there were some tense moments, “We all got light-headed and got really hot and just felt uneasy.”
Fellow passenger Larry Johnson, Jr., called the experience life changing, “It felt like you were in an elevator.”
Prior to federal inspectors taking over the plane, the NFTA sent a K-9 unit in to check for drugs or explosives, and asked for a Buffalo Hazmat crew to inspect the plane for any hazardous chemicals or fumes, which turned up nothing suspicious.
SkyWest Airlines is a regional air carrier out of St. George, Utah, and Flight 5622 was booked as United Express. The 75 passengers plus crew boarded a second plane–minus those few who made other plans–and departed Buffalo at about 6:00pm Wednesday.
They arrived at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut about an hour later.