EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) — When Laura Brentlinger saw the crash of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco, memories of a plane accident she survived in 1989 came back.
“I know that plane inside and out, so when I saw it, my first thought was, ‘Oh my god,’” she said. “I thought everyone had perished.”
Twenty-four years ago, a cargo door ripped off of a plane the retired flight attendant from El Dorado County was working on, sucking nine passengers to their deaths.
She was the head flight attendant on United Flight 811 when part of the jet ripped open. She clung to a circular staircase when part of the jet ripped open.
“I call it flag time, when I was hanging onto the rungs, and my feet were literally off the ground, hanging in mid-air,” she said.
She credits her deeply ingrained training for automatically kicking in, helping her focus somehow on passengers’ safety moments after she was nearly sucked out of a plane at 22,000 feet.
“I remember screaming to my flying partner, ‘We’re supposed to exude confidence,’” she said. “How do I exude confidence when I’m scared to death.”
For Laura, and the flight attendants on Saturday, there was no chance to prepare or warn passengers.
“After that initial shock, everyone’s looking at you,” she said. “We’re trained to get passengers off in 90 seconds or less.”
And just as in 1989, there are stories of heroism. The Asiana flight attendant who carried passengers out of the 777 on her back, tears streaming down her face, moments before the plane burst into flames.
“After I’d heard how many survived, I went, ‘Oh my god, thank god for the flight attendants,’ because there’s no way they could have survived without them,” she said.