A Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Honolulu was struck by lightning and forced to return to Las Vegas with 278 passengers.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5 was immediately caught in the middle of a thunderstorm after the plane departed Las Vegas on Sunday at 7:57 p.m. — then the aircraft was struck by a bolt of lightning, KHON 2 reports.
“The scariest part for us was getting hit by lightning,” passenger Julie-Anna Bardon told the outlet. “There were people on the flight that were crying.”
The passenger described the initial panic on board as the lightning bolt struck the aircraft.
The plane was only in the air for about 20 minutes before the incident, with the pilots immediately making a U-turn to the Harry Reid International Airport, landing safely at around 8:30 p.m., data from flight-tracking website FlightAware shows.
A spokesperson with Hawaiian Airlines confirmed that the flight was diverted due to lightning, with all 278 passengers and 11 crew members returning to Vegas safely.
The Airlines said it provided hotel accommodations and meals for the passengers as airport crews worked to inspect the airplane.
The flight to Honolulu was rescheduled for Tuesday at 4 a.m.
It is extremely rare for commercial airlines to see their planes hit by lightning, with only one or two incidents reported a year, according to the National Weather Service.
Although lightning hasn’t caused the crash of a commercial flight in decades — as planes are now designed to withstand the bolts — airlines are still required to land and inspect for damage during such cases, the NWS says.
The NWS, however, noted that lightning strikes can be more common among smaller, private planes that aren’t required to follow regulations.
Last year, singer Miley Cyrus was touring in South America when her plane was forced to make an emergency landing after it was struck by lightning during a trip to Paraguay.