Michigan women's hoops team home after emergency landing; oxygen masks deployed, everyone OK
The Michigan women’s basketball team, its charter plane forced to make an emergency landing in Evansville, Indiana, late Saturday night, returned safely to Ann Arbor early Sunday.
While flying along and through a strong band of thunderstorms, the plane, a Boeing 737-400 operated by iAero Airways, lost pressure and oxygen masks were deployed.
Michigan was returning to Ann Arbor from San Antonio, after a 78-75 loss in overtime to Baylor in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Saturday afternoon. The plane departed Texas at 8:16 p.m. Central time for the roughly 2½-hour flight, but made the diverted landing at 10:07 Central, according to the FlightAware plane tracking site.
As the plane flew through the band of storms, there had been considerable turbulence before it made what was described as an "aggressive descent." Because of the loss of pressure, the compartments containing oxygen masks opened and fell, according to Sarah VanMetre, who handles athletic department communications for Michigan women’s basketball.
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There were no injuries, VanMetre said in a text to The Detroit News, "other than being scared." There were a few bloody noses several minutes after the flight landed, but those resulted from the pressurization changes, and not from any in-flight jostling, VanMetre said. Coach Kim Barnes Arico and members of the team have not been available for comment.
According to FlightAware data, the plane had reached an altitude of 37,000 feet at 9:39:56 p.m. Central and by 9:41:57 had dropped to 27,950. At 9:45:49 p.m. the plane had descended to 15,700 feet and was diverted to Evansville at 9:45:56. It landed at 10:07 p.m.
The team, which had departed its San Antonio hotel at 7 p.m., spent nearly six hours in the Evansville airport, ordered pizza, and boarded a differeplane for a 3:54 a.m. departure. The Wolverines were in the air for 59 minutes and landed at Willow Run in Ypsilanti at 5:53 a.m. Eastern time. VanMetre said Sunday morning optional vehicle travel had been arranged, but with a 425-mile drive, but everyone chose to fly.
News of the incident was shared late Saturday night by Michigan assistant coach Toyelle Wilson, who posted on Twitter a photograph of coach Kim Barnes Arico, her staff and team in the plane about 15 minutes after it had landed in Evansville. The oxygen masks are clearly visible dangling from compartment above their seats.
“Just went through the worst flying experience,” Wilson wrote on Twitter. “We are flying back to MI & hit a storm-lost pressurization- the oxygen masks dropped from the compartments. Told bc we dropped at a certain feet & had to use them.” She asked for prayers after they landed.
This is not the first time a Michigan basketball team has had flight issues. In 2017, the Michigan's men's basketball team was preparing to fly to Washington, D.C., to play in the Big Ten tournament, when its charter skidded off the runway at Willow Run in Ypsilanti, still going 115 mph. Players, coaches and other members of the traveling party had to exit the plane, which suffered extensive damage, via inflatable chutes. An investigation found a jammed part was the reason for the accident.