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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
'No evidence' stewardess panicked
Virgin Atlantic plane
Virgin launched their London to Las Vegas route in 2000
Virgin Atlantic says it has found no evidence that one of its stewardesses screamed and panicked when a plane encountered severe turbulence.

Passengers claimed the stewardess cried out that everyone was going to die every time the London to Las Vegas Boeing 747 jumbo jet dropped.

She was said to have chanted three times: "We're going to crash".

The airline said that the investigation into the flight on 24 February could not substantiate the claims.

The turbulence, which came three hours into the flight , was the worst in the airline's 22-year history, Virgin said.

In a statement, the company said: "Evidence from passengers clearly states that, due to the severe nature of the turbulence, there was much noise and commotion onboard and several passengers were heard screaming during the incident.

Virgin Atlantic has received many letters of praise from passengers who felt compelled to write to the airline to put the record straight, after the allegations were made
Sir Richard Branson

"In particular, the findings of the investigation have concluded that, based on the evidence put forward by the passengers and crew questioned, the allegations against the individual crew member cannot be substantiated."

The plane was carrying 451 passengers and 18 crew. Passengers reportedly began to panic and cry as the shouts rang out when the London to Las Vegas flight suddenly began "juddering".

Sir Richard Branson, the airline's chairman, said the captain had called the turbulence the most severe he had encountered.

"The crew onboard acted highly professionally in the circumstances, risking their own safety to ensure that passengers were comforted and the cabin was fully secured to protect them from injury," Sir Richard added.

"Virgin Atlantic has received many letters of praise from passengers who felt compelled to write to the airline to put the record straight, after the allegations were made, and thank the crew for their actions.

"I think they deserve an award for their bravery.

"It is clear that the turbulence on this flight was unexpected and severe and Virgin Atlantic apologises to passengers for any distress it may have caused."

'Very, very scary'

Douglas Marshall, a 33-year old BBC journalist from Birmingham, was on the flight and heard screams but did not know who they came from.

Speaking about the flight, he said the crew were "very scared" when the plane hit trouble.

"If the flight crew are scared then you know something is seriously wrong," he said.

"The plane was juddering, up and down. I was trying to take a step but just ended up lying on the floor."

He eventually managed to get himself into a seat which happened to be next to a stewardess.

"It was very, very scary. Most people on that plane thought they were going to die," he said.

Half of the passengers had to use their sick bags, he added.

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