Odor forces Germany-bound flight to land at Sea-Tac

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SEATTLE —

A packed jet made an emergency landing at Sea-Tac Airport after an odor on board sickened four people.

Lufthansa flight 459 landed safely at Sea-Tac around 11:30 p.m. Thursday after taking off from San Francisco en route to Munich, Germany, with 323 passengers and 16 crew members aboard.

 Port of Seattle firefighters boarded the plane to treat four people, Lufthansa confirmed, including three crew members and one passenger.  

Passenger Emily Knezevich watched firefighters treat a female flight attendant.

 “She had like a bag over her mouth and the fire attendants kept on trying to switch the bag. I don’t know if she was sick in the stomach, or was it the smell,” said Knezevich.

Passenger Diedem Carissimo said when the firefighters boarded, they seemed to focus in one area.

 “When the fire crew came in they were looking by the toilets, I think the kitchen area,” toward the rear of the plane, Carissimo said.

 Flight tracking websites showed that sometime over Idaho, the plane turned to land at Portland, but then later, passengers said they heard an announcement that the Airbus A340 would land in Seattle because the runway was longer.

A passenger sitting near the rear of the plane said his toddler got sick from the fumes and threw up.  He also said he saw flight attendants getting sick.

Passenger Neil Commiskey described the smell as something electric. 

“‘I could smell it, but I was up in the front and it wasn’t that bad,” said Commiskey.  “But you could get this hint off it, you know.”

People who spoke to KIRO 7 said they were all offered hotels for the night and promises of re-booking for Friday, but the delay messed up vacation plans for Tim Liebler’s family. 

Liebler said he was irritated with the seeming lack of information from Lufthansa about what was happening.

“German announcements came on and it lasted a minute and then English came on and it would last five seconds,” Liebler said.  “So, I think they were getting a little bit more information in German than in English. Very annoying.”

Everyone who spoke with KIRO 7 said people remained calm throughout the ordeal.“Very calm,” said Tanjia Mertin, of Munich.  “It was very relaxed even so we had to wait here quite a bit in Seattle until we were allowed to get out. But people stayed very calm.”

“Very cool, no complaints,” said passenger Patrick Fischer of Munich.  “Everybody’s happy to land on the ground and not in the Atlantic,” he said, laughing.  “I don’t care,” he added. “I’m happy to land and have a warm bed tonight.”

Lufthansa representatives said crews have checked the plane, but have not been able to figure out where the smell came from or what it was.