SYDNEY--Oxygen masks failed to work properly when a Qantas jumbo jet plunged thousands of meters after a hole appeared in the side of the plane in mid-air, passengers said in reports published Sunday.
Some said they were forced to share a mask when the Qantas Boeing 747 ran into trouble, while others panicked when they failed to open.
Investigators are still trying to determine how the gaping hole was punched in the fuselage of the plane Friday, forcing it into an emergency landing in Manila.
"The elastic was so old that it had deteriorated. I was trying to get my passport, and every time I got my passport the mask fell off and I started to pass out," architect David Saunders told The Sunday Age paper in Melbourne.
In some parts of the cabin, Saunders said, the masks failed to drop down at all.
"A guy just went into a panic, and smashed the whole panel off the ceiling to get to the mask," he said.
"The kids were screaming and flailing. Their cheeks and lips were turning blue from lack of oxygen."
Another passenger, named as Paula Madejon, said she had to share her mask with two other people, while nobody had a mask in the row behind her.
Yet another passenger said a door in the plane's ceiling failed to open and release the masks, causing panic, and a member of the cabin crew had to do it manually.
Sources close to the investigation have said the 365 passengers and crew on the flight to Melbourne were lucky to be alive after the three-meter (10-foot) hole appeared in the fuselage at 8,800 meters (29,000 feet).
The jet, which had originated in London and stopped in Hong Kong, plunged 6,000 meters in an emergency descent before stabilizing.
Meanwhile the plane's pilot hailed the cabin crew for the "tremendous job" they did looking after the passengers, and said every other Qantas pilot would have been able to bring the aircraft down safely as well.
"As soon as we realized this was a decompression, I immediately pulled out my memory checklist," Captain John Bartels said in a statement.
"There were three of us in the cockpit and we all worked together and focused on doing what we had to do to get the aircraft down safely, which is exactly what we are trained to do.
A source close to the investigation said Saturday they were studying the possibility of an explosion in a piece of luggage or a broken panel as causing the rupture, while some experts have suggested oxygen cylinders blew up.