LONDON, JUNE 10 -- A British Airways captain was sucked partway through a windshield that blew out at 24,000 feet today, but crew members managed to cling to him while the co-pilot made an emergency landing, the airline said.
The pilot, Tim Lancaster, was hospitalized with serious injuries but was expected to survive, authorities said. Police said eight passengers were treated for shock.
"I could see a body hanging out of the window with two men and a woman hanging on to his legs. They were trying to stop him being sucked out," said passenger Margaret Simmonds.
The incident occurred as the British-built twin-engine BAEC 111, carrying 81 passengers and six crew members, was en route from Birmingham, England, to Malaga, Spain.
A British Airways spokesman, speaking anonymously in keeping with British custom, said a steward was in the forward galley when he heard a loud bang and saw Lancaster being pulled from his cockpit seat.
The steward managed to grab the pilot's ankles, and a second steward rushed to his assistance "and they held onto him," the spokesman said.
The co-pilot made an emergency landing at Southampton Airport, 70 miles southwest of London.
The airline spokesman did not know what caused the windshield to shatter. The Civil Aviation Authority was investigating.
"We had been flying for about 20 minutes when there was a huge bang," said passenger Chris Opie, who was traveling with his girlfriend and 19-month-old son. "There seemed to be some smoke immediately after the bang and suddenly there was sheer panic."
He said the plane immediately began a rapid descent.
"An air hostess standing near us at the back of the plane started to cry," he said. "I thought we were going to crash and began praying. My girlfriend . . . was crying and hugging our son."
He said the crew warned passengers over the loudspeaker to prepare for an emergency landing.