PASSENGERS RECALL TERRIFYING HAWAIIAN AIR FLIGHT BOUND FOR AMERICAN SAMOA

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By Fili Sagapolutele Special to Pacific Islands Report

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (May 1, 2000)---It was a scary two hours for the more than 200 passengers when a Hawaiian Air DC-10 returned to Honolulu during a five-hour flight to American Samoa last Friday.

Hawaiian Air flight 465, on its regularly scheduled Friday flight, departed Honolulu right after 5:00 p.m. bound for American Samoa. An estimated two hours and 20 minutes later, passengers who were either resting or waiting for their meals to be served were informed that the plane was returning to Honolulu due to mechanical problems.

About half an hour after the aircraft turned around came a frightening announcement that passengers were to prepare for an emergency crash landing, according to some passengers on board the flight.

"It was pretty scary," said passenger Fagafaga Daniel Langkilde, General Manager of American Samoa-based Blue Sky Communication. "I must say that the flight crew were very calm and good getting the passengers prepared for the crash landing."

What had occurred, was that the aircraft lost one of its engines.

A local television news anchor on board the flight said people were scared. "The crew was very good in briefing the passengers. But people were scared.

"It's a very scary experience that we will all remember," said Siniva Anoai, news anchor for the territorial government-owned KVZK-TV.

Ninety-five percent of the passengers were Samoans and one male passenger said, "You could see many Samoan people bowing their heads offering prayers of safety, including me. You could see some people with tears in their eyes and there was a Samoan church minister offering prayers for everyone, saying that, 'Whatever happens, remember that it's the will of God'."

Reportedly it was the Rev. Siaosi Mageo of American Samoa who conducted prayers for those in both first class and economy, according to passengers.

Other passengers credited the captain and the Samoan female in-flight crew for "keeping faith and keeping passengers calm throughout the ordeal as they went through briefing passengers about what to do in case of a crash."

The captain and flight crew also asked passengers with emergency experience for assistance in case a crash actually happened. There were several volunteers, including off-duty airline employees.

Fortunately, the flight landed safely in Honolulu without incident "but such an experience will remain in everyone's mind that were on board this flight," said a female passenger, who was returning home after attending a government meeting in Honolulu.

The flight included business people, government employees, two ranking police officers, passengers going to American Samoa to attend a funeral and weddings on Saturday and others just visiting or returning home.

The passengers finally took off again for American Samoa on Saturday evening.

Airline officials here said Friday night that the flight returned to Honolulu due to mechanical problems. Hawaiian Air spokesperson, Keoni Wagner was out sick on Monday and could not be reached for further comment.

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