TOKYO — A Thai Airways A-300 Airbus with 247 people aboard plunged almost 25,000 feet Sunday night after suddenly losing cabin pressure over southwestern Japan, and 62 people were injured, 14 seriously, before the aircraft landed safely at Osaka airport, authorities said.
Japanese news reports said that Flight 620, en route to Osaka from Bangkok, made the emergency dive after what passengers described as a "big bang."
A preliminary investigation showed that half of the rear pressure bulkhead, which separates the pressurized cabin from the non-pressurized tail section, was severely damaged, Osaka Prefectural Police spokesman Masayuki Miyaguchi said.
Investigators also found a hole one yard in diameter on the rear bottom fuselage surface of the jetliner, a new aircraft put into service only three weeks ago.
Japanese news reports quoted passengers as saying many were thrown from their seats and against the walls and ceiling as the plane plunged downward.
The jetliner was 33,000 feet above the Japanese island of Shikoku, about 400 miles southwest of Tokyo, when the incident occurred Sunday evening. It landed at Osaka 40 minutes later.
The incident recalled history's worst single-plane disaster last year when a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 with 524 people aboard crashed in central Japan, killing all but four on board. Investigators in that crash focused on the possibility of a rupture in the rear pressure bulkhead, which had been repaired after an earlier mishap in which the aircraft's rear fuselage scraped the runway.