April 25, 2000 | PORTLAND, Ore. -- A gun went off in the cargo hold of an Alaska Airlines jet awaiting takeoff, firing a bullet up through the cabin floor, where it lodged in a diaper bag. No one was injured.
The .357-caliber pistol was in a suitcase and discharged Monday night when a baggage handler threw the bag onto the Boeing 737, which was about to leave for Anchorage, Alaska, airport police officer Michael Brant said.
The bullet tore through a diaper bag stowed under a seat and lodged in a baby's changing pad, Brant said.
"It was right under our feet," said Grant Johnson, who had placed the bag under the seat and notified a flight attendant after hearing a loud noise near his feet. "It was just a few inches away and it could have hurt somebody."
Passenger Betty Jean Smith, 66, of Eagle River, Alaska, was charged with reckless endangerment and concealing a weapon without a permit. She had two loaded guns in her bag.
"She didn't know anything about firearms," Brant said. "She brought them here for her son. He didn't want them so she was bringing them home."
Regulations require that passengers declare guns packed in luggage and that those guns be unloaded.
The crew and the 85 passengers were transferred to another plane so maintenance workers could check the jet for damage.
Alaska Airlines has been under scrutiny since a jet crashed Jan. 31 off the California coast, killing all 88 people aboard.