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'Today is not the day…this is not how I’m going to go': United Airlines passenger face to face with a tornado

Posted at 1:11 AM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 02:11:18-04
  • Video shows Eppley Airfield and tornado footage.
  • Sonya Greco, an United Airlines passenger shares the moments landing on the tarmac and waiting for a tornado to pass through the airport.
  • Officials said a total of 171 homes in Douglas County have been destroyed by the storm. In addition, 229 homes have major damage, and 157 have minor damage in Douglas County.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

New questions from passengers who want to know why their flight landed during Friday’s severe storms in Omaha, putting them in the path of the tornado that struck Eppley Airfield with no way to get off the plane. One woman told me they were kept on the plane for two hours.

Friday afternoon Sonya Greco was a passenger on United Airlines flight 1279, on final approach into Omaha.

On the ground, a tornado in Elkhorn and another storm cell rolling north into the Metro.

Around 4:15 touchdown, taxi at the gate. Then they waited.

“It felt like we sat there for like 30 minutes… before it occurred," said Greco.

Greco tells me after landing, the pilot told passengers to remain seated and buckled.

“Other than the baby crying… you could pretty much hear a pin drop. There was silence on the plane..or then a little whispers here and there," said Greco.

The ground crew was inside taking shelter from the tornado that hit the airfield. Sonya was stuck in her seat.

"I was just thinking… what can I put over my head…. To protect myself but… the plane did start shaking a little bit back and forth," said Greco.

Greco says passengers were told part of the long wait after the twister passed was the ensure the storm has moved out of the area. But she also wants to know the plane landed when it did.

I reached out to the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA tells me that air traffic controller route aircraft away from dangerous weather. And the pilot in command is ultimately responsible for a safe flight.

Nobody on that flight was injured but Greco says the experience was a reminder that life is fragile.

“Make sure my family knows… that they're loved… so yeah… it defiantly made a difference," said Greco.