A Thomas Cook passenger plane was forced to make an emergency landing after a pensioner was hit on the head and knocked unconscious – by a falling SHOE.
Hilda Holland, 79, was badly injured during the freak accident when the footwear dropped from an overhead luggage compartment on January 10.
A fellow passenger opened the locker to get some warm clothing when the heavy leather suede shoe fell out 50 minutes into the flight from Fuerteventura to Birmingham.
She was taken from her aisle seat to the front of the plane and treated by two off-duty nurses who happened to be on the Thomas Cook Airbus A321-211.
The plane then made an emergency diversion to Lisbon where Hilda was quickly stretchered off with her worried husband John, 77, who thought she was going to die.
She was rushed to the British Hospital Lisbon XXI and given a CT scan which fortunately showed no permanent damage.
Hilda was kept in overnight before the couple were allowed to return to the airport at 5am the next day.
They then had to fork out £370 for a flight back to Birmingham International Airport and ended up going via Brussels in Belgium before getting home late on January 11.
Hilda, who lives with John in Rowley Regis, West Mids., vowed never to fly again following their “traumatic” ordeal.
The retired gas worker said: “I was sitting there and had just been talking to a lady sitting by me and all of a sudden I felt a bang on my head.
“The lady behind was pulling woolly clothing out of the overhead locker and with it came a loose shoe.
“My husband came over and asked what had happened and I must have gone into shock because I couldn’t speak.
“The lady said sorry but I couldn’t say anything back.
“I don’t remember anything else because I must have gone unconscious but they took me to the front of the plane and curtained it off.
“They got permission to land in Lisbon and took me to the hospital where I had a scan and an injection because I had dehydrated so much.
“We left the hospital at 5am and got on the plane at 3.30pm and eventually got home about midnight.
“I blame it on people trying to take too much luggage on the plane because they don’t want to pay as much.
“It was obviously a loose shoe that wasn’t in a bag secure and I am lucky I wasn’t more seriously injured.
“We won’t fly any more. That was a wake-up call for us.
“It was actually quite embarrassing, knowing that I managed to ground a plane.
“But we’ve been going on holiday flying abroad for a good many years now so it is a shame we won’t be again.
“We said we will stop in this country now and maybe go on a coach trip. Its not worth the risk. My husband thought he’d lost me.”
Husband John, who used to run a haulage firm, admitted he feared for his wife’s life after the freak accident on flight TCX 4125.
He added: “The woman sitting behind Hilda decided to get a cardigan from the locker but she pulled a shoe out with it.
“That came down and hit her on the back of the head and the ear. She said to me ‘that came sharp’.
“Ten minutes later I looked over and she was shaking and pale. I thought she wasn’t going to make it, I had never seen her like that.
“I’ve never been so worried in my life.”
The couple’s relatives only discovered about their ordeal from police because they didn’t have a mobile phone with them.
Their nephew Chris Hill, 50, was left waiting at Birmingham Airport for six-and-a-half hours before eventually giving up and going home.
John added: “I asked two of the crew if they would phone Chris to let him know about our ordeal but they didn’t.
“He was waiting in the airport for six-and-a-half hours before he eventually found out the plane had been delayed.
“We wanted to go home as quick as we could so we found a travel agent who got us a flight home to Birmingham via Brussels.”
Fellow passengers on the diverted flight said cabin crew had “panic in their eyes” as news of the emergency landing was relayed.
Megan Clancy, 21, from Tamworth, Staffs., said: “Two of the air stewardesses were serving us drinks.
“All of a sudden a woman came rushing up to the staff saying a lady around ten rows in front of us urgently needed help.
“Luckily there were two off duty nurses on board who raced to help.
“They started giving her oxygen, then took her to the front of the plane near the cockpit and pulled the curtain across.
“You could see panic in the eyes of the crew but they remained very calm.
“They reassured all the passengers and checked if anyone needed water.”
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: “Our operations control centre contacted Mr and Mrs Holland at the hospital and offered assistance within a few hours of their arrival.
“Mr Holland was grateful for the call and advised that he would make arrangements through his insurers and we ensured he had direct contact number for Thomas Cook.
“Our welfare team have been in touch with the Hollands following their return and we hope Mrs Holland makes a full recovery.”