A packed plane was diverted to Tampa International Airport after descending nearly 30,000 feet within a few minutes.
Delta Airlines Flight 2353, a Boeing 763, took off from Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, and was headed to Fort Lauderdale before the forced landing in Tampa. The plane descended from 39,000 feet to 10,000 feet in approximately eight minutes. No injuries were reported but oxygen masks dropped due to the plane's rapid descent.
"Out of nowhere, I had four oxygen masks drop down into my lap," Harris DeWoskin, 21, told NBC News. "Of course it was sort of an instant panic."
According to DeWoskin, the captain explained the need for the plane to descend to reach a better altitude was due to cabin pressure, but they were not able to descend quickly enough before the oxygen masks deployed.
"You never really expect it to actually be something you experience," said DeWoskin, alluding to the safety instructions at the beginning of the flight.
Flight attendants were focused on calming people down and so was DeWoskin, who was next to a woman who previously told him she was afraid of flying.
DeWoskin said it became a bit harder to breathe, but he was not sure if that was the air pressure, or just his panic.
"We apologize to our customers on flight 2353 from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, which diverted to Tampa out of an abundance of caution and landed without incident following a cabin pressurization irregularity en route," a Delta spokesperson told NBC.
The plane landed safely without incident and passengers deplaned normally. Then, buses transported customers from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale.
Maintenance technicians are evaluating the aircraft, and the Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating what caused the malfunction on the Boeing 763.