Twitter post reveals panicked Southwest passengers wore oxygen masks incorrectly

When the plane engine blew up and the oxygen masks rained down, there was only one thought that dominated Marty Martinez's mind: sending a goodbye message to his parents.

"I had no reason to be hopeful," said Martinez. People were screaming. A window was smashed out by engine debris. Even the flight attendants were crying. "So as the plane was going down, I whipped out my credit card and bought Wi-Fi."

Martinez, 29, is the founder of a digital marketing company called Social Revolt in Dallas, and streaming live on Facebook comes naturally to him. "I thought that was my only avenue to get a message to the outside," he recalled of those moments. He dialled up a Facebook connection, and only then did he put on his oxygen mask.

That's how the world came to see the image of Martinez, seated in the window seat of Row 15 of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 from New York to Dallas, slipping on his mask and then staring into the camera, wide-eyed but remarkably calm, as he prepared for what he believed would be a plane crash that would end his life. The Boeing 737-700 was carrying 148 people and an engine exploded, smashing open a window.

It took a former flight attendant and TV show host to notice the one thing that was wrong with this picture - almost all of the passengers were wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly, according to one report.

Bobby Laurie shared one of Martinez's photos on Twitter along with a public service announcement reminding people to cover both their noses and mouths with oxygen masks during an emergency.

"PEOPLE: Listen to your flight attendants!" Laurie said. "ALMOST EVERYONE in this photo from @SouthwestAir #SWA1380 today is wearing their mask WRONG."

Passengers who do not get an adequate supply of oxygen to the bloodstream will suffer from a condition called hypoxia, causing them to lose consciousness within minutes.

Symptoms of hypoxia include "nausea, apprehension, tunnel vision, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, tingling sensations, numbness, and mental confusion," according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

SWA1380 passengers would have had about 30 seconds of useful consciousness to get their masks on after the window blew open and the cabin depressurised. The low pressure in the cabin would have made the physiological problem of breathing difficult for passengers, which is rectified if the mask is correctly placed over the nose and mouth. 

It was a further 12 minutes until the plane landed.

According to, Southwest passengers get the following instructions before every flight takes off :

"If needed, four oxygen masks will drop from the compartment overhead. To activate the flow of oxygen, pull down on the mask until the plastic tubing is fully extended. Place the mask over your nose and mouth, and breathe normally.

"Secure the mask with the elastic strap. Although oxygen will be flowing, the plastic bag may not inflate. Continue wearing the mask until otherwise notified by a crew member. If you are travelling with children or anyone needing special assistance, put on your mask first."

See also: The truth about oxygen masks on planes

One passenger died, US regulators said on Tuesday, marking the first accident-related fatality on a US-registered airline in more than nine years.

"I was just in shock," Martinez said in a phone interview from the US Customs offices of Philadelphia Airport's Terminal A. "All I was thinking about was telling my parents that I loved them."


Martinez had been about 30 minutes into his flight home to Dallas and everything seemed fine, he said. Then he heard a loud boom. Before he could register what it might be, the oxygen masks fell down throughout the Boeing 737-700. Then the window exploded inward two rows in front of him.

"That put everyone in sheer panic," he said.

Martinez looked around frantically as he tried to process what was happening. When he saw how upset the flight attendants were, "we thought we were in a really bad place. We were going down."

As Martinez was live-streaming on Facebook, he looked over at his work colleague in the seat next to him.

"He looked over to me and was probably wondering, 'why is he buying internet right now?' Meanwhile he's drafting a text to his wife and sending a message to his unborn son."

Just a couple rows in front of Martinez, nearby passengers huddled around a women who was slumped in her seat where the window had blown out. She wasn't moving or making a sound, he said. Other passengers were grabbing anything they could lay their hands on - jackets and coats - to stuff into the broken window.

"A man was helping - there was blood all over him. She made no noise at all. I could see the blood all over that gentleman's hands."

Most others on the plane stayed in their seats, as did Martinez. He could see the damaged engine through his window. He thought about how his future had just been taken away, all the plans he had for life with his girlfriend, with his company.

He estimates the plane was descending for at least 10 or 12 minutes. At some point, he was able to get a mobile phone connection and he dialled his mother. She didn't answer. He sent out a text to friends and colleagues: "I want you you to know that I love you all and thank you for all that you've done. I'm so sorry!! Planes going down. I love you guys!"

Then over the intercom came the instructions: "Brace yourself! Brace yourself! Brace yourself!"

"I felt like I had minutes left," he said. "I was bracing for an explosion. And then I saw the runway."

The plane landed. Flight attendants began shouting instructions, asking if anyone needed medical attention. The injured woman was taken out first.

"It was only when we had hit the ground and you could tell the plane was slowing down - there just a sign of relief and cheers across the plane. Everyone was just so grateful to be alive."

with Kylie McLaughlin

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