A Los Angeles-bound Alaska Airlines flight had to return to Seattle today after a worker reportedly fell asleep and found himself trapped in the plane's cargo hold. Flight 448 had just taken off this afternoon when the pilot heard banging from down below, the airline says in a news release. The captain immediately returned to Seattle-Tacoma International and declared an emergency for priority landing. After the plane landed, a ramp agent came out from the front cargo hold, which Alaska says is pressurized and temperature-controlled. "Upon exiting, he told authorities he had fallen asleep," the airline says. The worker, an employee of Menzies Aviation, walked off the plane and appeared OK, but was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Alaska says it is still investigating the incident. The plane was airborne for 14 minutes. Passenger Marty Collins tells KOMO-TV the flight was surrounded by emergency vehicles when it returned to the airport. She says passengers did not hear the worker banging or making noise: "Nobody on the plane heard anything like that, nobody knew why we were turning around," she tells the station. "They just said we were fine and we weren't in any danger." Passengers were later told about the situation. "They just said there was someone in the cargo hold and he's been escorted off and taken away," she says.