Flight attendant panics as jet falls 8,000ft in seconds

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An investigation was launched into claims that a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant panicked during a turbulent flight and repeatedly shouted to passengers: "We're crashing."

Pandemonium broke out on the flight from Gatwick to Las Vegas when it was hit by storms and plummeted thousands of feet in seconds.

A man was hurled to the top of the cabin and others clung to seats from the aisle because of the violent swaying of the plane. But passengers became more alarmed when an attendant at the rear of the Boeing 747 began screaming.

Claire Daley, one of 451 people on board, hoped the crew would calm her nerves. "I turned round to look at our hostess for reassurance and she screamed: 'We're crashing, we're crashing, we're crashing'.

"And I just thought: 'It's over; if an air hostess is telling us we are crashing'. I really thought we were crashing," she said.

"She screamed every time the plane dropped and when she screamed the whole of the back of the plane screamed. It was terrifying. I was almost hyperventilating. I was sobbing - I thought we weren't going to make it."

Ms Daley, from Stone, Staffordshire, who was flying with her partner Tom Wildman, was going to the US for treatment on her back.

Paul Gibson, who was on his way to a limousine convention in Las Vegas, said the stewardess did not respond properly to requests for sick bags.

"When someone asked for some sick bags, she grabbed a box and threw them across the plane. There were about five people around me throwing up," he said. " I fly a lot and I have never experienced anything like it in my life."

Trouble began three hours into the flight on Friday as the plane flew over Greenland. The in-flight television screens showed the plane dropped from 38,000 feet to 30,000 feet, Ms Daley said.

Yesterday, Virgin Atlantic confirmed that flight VS043 had encountered "severe turbulence" and said that reports of the cabin crew's behaviour were being investigated.