A passenger who was aboard the mid-December United Airlines flight that plunged to within feet of the Pacific Ocean came forth to discuss what the terrifying experience was like.
On December 18, Rod Williams II, his wife and two young children had seats near the back of United flight 1722 bound from Maui, Hawaii, to San Francisco, California. The plane had taken off from Maui and reached 2,200 feet before it suddenly dropped more than 1,400 feet in the midst of an intense storm.
“It felt like you were climbing to the top of a roller coaster. It was at that point,” Williams, who studied aviation in college, told CNN. “There were a number of screams on the plane. Everybody knew that something was out of the ordinary, or at least that this was not normal.”
According to The Air Current, the harrowing dive reached a descent rate of almost 8,600 feet per minute.
Williams and his wife were seated with their 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son between them.
“When the plane started to nosedive, multiple screams are being let out, at that point,” Williams said. “You’re trying your best to maintain your composure – there’s obviously kids on the flight – nobody really knows what’s going on, but at the same time, you’re concerned. You don’t know if this is an issue, but it was certainly out of the ordinary.”
“It’s tense, you don’t really have a chance to speak or to conjure up words, you’re just kind of gripping the seat and praying under your breath,” he added. “I asked her later and sure enough … we were praying for a miracle, because we felt like this could be it.”
Eight weeks after the flight, Williams’ father showed him reports on the flight. “Now that I know, statistically what had happened, and that we were about 5 to 5.2 seconds from hitting the water, you know, I’m definitely counting my blessings,” he said. “I’m reminded that when my wife and I pray together before the flights that, you know, there’s a God that’s here in that.”
After the flight successfully landed in San Francisco, the family flew home to Ohio. The United flight, a Boeing that could hold 364 passengers, left for Chicago two and a half hours later.
“You read about these things, but then when you get to experience it, it’s just, sobering, you know. I’m very thankful to be here today,” he concluded.