The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Friday’s accident and is still looking for the door from the paneled-over exit that blew out. They have a good idea of where it landed, near Oregon Route 217 and Barnes Road in the Cedar Hills area west of Portland, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference late Saturday.
“If you find that, please, please contact local law enforcement,” she said.
It was extremely lucky that the airplane had not yet reached cruising altitude, when passengers and flight attendants might be walking around the cabin, Homendy said.
“No one was seated in 26A and B where that door plug is, the aircraft was around 16,000 feet and only 10 minutes out from the airport when the door blew,” she said. The investigation is expected to take months.
There has not been a major crash involving a US passenger carrier within the country since 2009 when a Colgan Air flight crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. In 2013, an Asiana Airlines flight arriving from South Korea crashed at San Francisco International Airport, killing three of the 307 people on board.
Flight 1282 took off from Portland at 5:07 pm on Friday for a two hour flight to Ontario, California. About six minutes later, the chunk of the fuselage blew out as the plane was at about 4.8 kilometers. One of the pilots declared an emergency and asked for clearance to descend to 3 kilometers, the altitude where the air would have enough oxygen to breathe safely.