HP employee sucked out of plane
December 15, 2000 9:31 AM   Subscribe

HP employee sucked out of plane when door opens during flight. In the great Metafilter tradition of schädenfreude.
posted by dhartung (37 comments total)
In the gradually increasing circle that is Metafilter, and this being a Valley story, it's just possible somebody here knew her, of course. I'm not going to say anything out of place.

It's just possible she jumped, but the circumstances -- door wouldn't shut, pilots land, secure it, then it opens again -- a faulty door is more plausible. What's scary is that nobody noticed she was missing right away, though I suppose everybody else had other things on their minds. How many people are switching to cars from now on?

For some reason these stories -- like the 747 with the hatch ripped off, or the Hawaiian Air plane that had its roof peeled off like a sardine can -- fascinate me more than simply a crash.
posted by dhartung at 9:35 AM on December 15, 2000

The new Zemeckis/Hanks vehicle Cast Away has one of the finer plane crash sequences ever committed to film. (It's too bad it has one of the most disappointing, poorly-written endings in recent memory.)
posted by waxpancake at 9:48 AM on December 15, 2000

Wow if you've got schädenfreude over an HP employee, I'd hate to see your workspace... :)
posted by cell divide at 10:14 AM on December 15, 2000

Maybe she had a sackful of stolen cash and a hidden parachute.
posted by harmful at 10:32 AM on December 15, 2000

Are you sure you know what "schadenfreude" means?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:10 AM on December 15, 2000

At 2000 feet in a slow commuter prop plane, a door that opens and won't shut is pretty scary, but the pressure difference isn't enough to cause the great suck-all-the-passengers-out scenes you see in movies. If you're sitting right next to the door without a seatbelt on... I expect we'll hear more about that soon.

For the curious, specs on the plane involved are here, and there's a picture of what the insides look like here.

posted by dws at 11:25 AM on December 15, 2000

This seems most strange - was she alone on the plane, or were there other passengers?

Further, from the article, it seems that the plane landed the second time, the door was still closed. Wierd . . .

Whatever the case, I hate flying. Reading stories like these makes my upcoming flight to San Francisco that much more interesting.
posted by aladfar at 12:00 PM on December 15, 2000

The door doesn't need to be open to set off the alarm. A door warning light is activated when the door isn't properly closed -- a magnetic switch or something similar fails to close a circuit. The door might not be properly closed, but still may be in the closed position. Also, it is not uncommon on older aircraft for these switches to act up and give intermittent false alarms.

But there are definitely details missing from this story.
posted by cardboard at 12:31 PM on December 15, 2000

A close reading (Ok, kinda close) makes it even more confusing. There were 5 passengers (presumably post-missing passenger sequence) on board, so presumably somebody would have noticed if a passenger opened the door mid flight.

The article only says the plan landed once to check the door -- it doesn't indicate whether or not the passenger was missing at the time they landed, only that they noticed her got 3 min after lift off @ Sacramento. 2nd landing was presumably at San Jose as scheduled.

Here's the sequence that seems to make sense: scheduled take off. Presumably door opens, light goes off, woman falls out, plane lands at Sacramento , door checks out OK, 2nd take off, passenger noticed missing.

The whole 'Door checks out OK' thing is a bit mysterious: does this mean the door was open but closed securely, closed and giving a false positive 'door open' light? Or?

I bet she was deplaned by aliens. Don't cha think?

posted by daver at 12:51 PM on December 15, 2000

I think she knew too much and HP had her deplaned.
posted by jennyb at 1:42 PM on December 15, 2000

I see her suspended in midair, the rest of the passengers and crew oblivious, stranded in "lost time," with Mulder hunched in the restroom, disbelieving eyes bulging as dozens of tiny Herve Villachaizes slowly advance on the poor woman, all piping in their strange little voices, "De-plane! De-plane!"

posted by Skot at 2:03 PM on December 15, 2000

I've ridden next to the open door of a Twin Otters in flight many times, from takeoff to over 15,000 feet. (Skydiving.)The pressurization of the cabin during commercial flight at higher altitudes might make a difference, but at 2000 feet I can't imagine anyone being sucked or blown or otherwise hastened out the door. Perhaps if one leaned up against it and it gave way...?

How the rest of the passengers and crew could remain oblivious to an open door is hard to understand. Though there is no suction or wind with a door open, there's a lot more noise.
posted by Tubes at 2:34 PM on December 15, 2000

Schadenfreude ...

The story I saw said a passenger saw the woman halfway out the door and he tried to keep her in the plane but failed, and everyone was too traumatized to tell the crew right away.
posted by jillmatrix at 3:15 PM on December 15, 2000

Anyone wanna bet there's some, shall we say, "accounting errors" in this woman's purchasing department that are about to come out?
posted by aaron at 3:29 PM on December 15, 2000

This story from the San Francisco Chronicle gives a considerably more detailed -- and puzzling -- account.

4:48 -- Plane lands to address the open door indicated by a cockpit light.
5:23 -- Plane takes off again.
5:26 -- Pilot radios that he's got an open door. Somebody goes back and shuts the door (instead of landing again, for some reason).
6:05 -- Plane lands in San Jose.
6:49 -- One of the passengers calls 911 to report the woman missing. Note that they've been on the ground nearly an hour!

Now, this is a 15-to-20-seat plane with 5 passengers. Furthermore, an open door in an airplane makes a hell of a lot of noise, regardless of how high the plane is or how fast it's going. So it's a bit implausible that nobody noticed.

And this business about the passengers being so distraught that they couldn't tell anybody for an hour and a half is a little hard to swallow as well.
posted by jjg at 5:04 PM on December 15, 2000

And another thing...

So the plane lands to secure this sketchy door. Now it's getting ready to take off again. Seats outnumber passengers 2 or 3 to 1. Would you choose to sit next to that door?

It may not have been foul play, but it sure doesn't seem like an accident.
posted by jjg at 5:11 PM on December 15, 2000

Sounds to me like J. Michael Stracynski is working on "Murder She Wrote 2001"…
posted by wendell at 5:15 PM on December 15, 2000

Body Found. "Sacramento police Friday afternoon found what they believed was the woman's body in a vegetable garden, about 200 feet behind a house and three blocks from Susan B. Anthony Elementary School." Fertilizer jokes are in bad taste, right?
posted by girlhacker at 5:27 PM on December 15, 2000

Why is it that I imagine this scene as portrayed by the Monty Python lads? There's something about the idea of women (or sheep) plummeting into one's vegetable garden that strikes me as inherently funny. But then I'm a horrible person. Talk about schädenfreude. (As a side note, feelings of schädenfreude have been so rampant at my house, for one reason or another, that we've suggested it might make a nice name for our firstborn daughter.)
posted by redfoxtail at 5:54 PM on December 15, 2000

I'll admit, I find the image funny too, probably because otherwise it's just too horrifying to imagine. Coping mechanism, I guess. And the Monty Python absurdity certainly applies. My first thought, as you can tell from my previous post, was "I wonder how the veggies will do next year." Bad me. (Hi Vera!)
posted by girlhacker at 6:12 PM on December 15, 2000

I don't see how this is schädenfreude. There's no reason to take any joy in this person's misfortune.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 8:11 PM on December 15, 2000

And yet, PWA, people above are giggling in relief because it happened to someone else and not them. You may not have any, but that doesn't make it impossible for others to feel. Anyway, I was merely commenting on how common it is for this type of post to appear on Metafilter.

Having read the SF article, I agree -- there's a lot of weirdness to this story. The conflicting statements, the delayed 911 call -- even the dry accounts of what happened seem to be leaving something significant out. Were they partying (on Thursday!)? Was there a reason for someone else to be culpable? Though the WPost story does make it sound like suicide.

They're probably going to carefully comb through her personal life looking for an affair or embezzlement.
posted by dhartung at 8:25 PM on December 15, 2000

San Jose Mercury News is reporting the woman was "despondent" and clearly jumped. It's not on their site yet but should be in the morning.

They say her family and friends had been very concerned about her mental health lately.
posted by jillmatrix at 9:05 PM on December 15, 2000

Ok, now that we know that she probably jumped, is it OK to make jokes?

Pretty please?
posted by Optamystic at 12:05 AM on December 16, 2000

One of the San Jose news programs played the tape of the 911 call that the mechanic made. It took him a couple of tries to convice the dispatcher that he wasn't making a sick joke. There haven't been reports yet about what was on the previous 43 minutes of 911 tapes. I can imagine a passenger, badly shaken and numb from having witnessed an (alleged) suicide by in-flight deplaning, trying to call 911, and then being blown off as a prankster.
posted by dws at 1:03 AM on December 16, 2000

The San Jose Mercury News report is here. A weird chain of events.

posted by dws at 1:13 AM on December 16, 2000

Optamystic: No. The fact she jumped just makes things sadder that the system failed her and people around her had failed to notice changes in her mental health. It's sad.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 2:21 AM on December 16, 2000

And normally I am one to point a finger and laugh at stupid deaths, but I really don't see the humor in this at all. The story is rather strange and a bit sketchy at times, but not once did it cross my mind that this could be interpreted as funny
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 2:22 AM on December 16, 2000

Sometimes if someone is truly intent on killing themselves, there is *NOTHING* you can do to stop them.

If they're smart, they'll hide the signs that they're ready to die as well as they can (especially from those close to them), and then they'll pick their moment.

It's a sad story, but if she truly was in so much pain that she felt she could not live anymore, I guess that she is at peace now.
posted by beth at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2000

According to the Murky News article, people DID notice the change in her mental health and tried to get her to seek help, but she refused.

I think this is a rarity though. Usually people notice the changes but make no attempt to actually speak to the person, instead just talking about it to all the other employees behind his or her back. Nobody really cares any more.
posted by aaron at 8:49 AM on December 16, 2000

PWA, I think you're limiting the definition of schadenfreude to maliciousness. I've always seen it as mainly about relief that it wasn't you in that situation. That can include the kind where you're also happy someone's being hoist by their own petard or whatever, but that's a much more narrow definition.
posted by dhartung at 10:20 AM on December 16, 2000

The 45 minute wait before the 911 call isn't so odd to me -- I'd wonder if I needed to call 911 or try to find the FAA. This was an incident that happened midflight, jurisdictional questions abound. They probably weren't thinking about what would happen when the body was found.
posted by Dreama at 4:05 PM on December 16, 2000

dhartung, you are quite a way off the mark with that interpretation of this word. SchadenFreude is, quite simply, "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others". The net seems to attract more than its fair share of sadists, perverts and psychopaths and, the MeFi community is no exception.
posted by murray_kester at 5:24 PM on December 16, 2000

i dont see how the details are sketchy at all. they had to land the first time because they were getting a warning about the door not being properly shut. why? because she was trying to open it! the first time she didn't get away with it without getting noticed. the second time, she did.

she planned to jump from the very beginning, she made an attempt, failed, then second time round got out the way she wanted.
posted by titboy at 8:13 PM on December 16, 2000

there's no umlaut in schadenfreude. anywhere.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2000

The net seems to attract more than its fair share of sadists, perverts and psychopaths and, the MeFi community is no exception.


I would say "I resemble that remark", but someone would probably do a web search and find it when they finally find the bodies...

posted by baylink at 3:52 PM on December 17, 2000

How apropos. I followed this link to check out updated news on this story and up pops a Continental airlines ad in another window.

This animated ad shows several airplane seats and passengers floating through the sky and finishes up with a tagline asking the viewer to choose Contintental for more personal space.
posted by syzygy at 7:17 AM on December 18, 2000

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