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Storm fuels distressing end to USC's chartered flight

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- USC's football team, coaches and staff
endured several terrifying minutes as their chartered flight to
South Bend plummeted amid a severe thunderstorm, forcing the pilot
to abort his first landing attempt.

About 125 people, including 82 players, coach Pete Carroll and
most of the coaching staff faced a harrowing end to their trip
across the country for Saturday's game.

"There was a moment there when I was thinking, 'This is it,' "
Dennis Slutak, USC's director of football operations, told The Los
Angeles Times.

USC sports information director Tim Tessalone told The
Associated Press on Friday that some passengers were thrown from their
seats by turbulence as lightning cracked around the storm-tossed
aircraft about 9 p.m. Thursday.

"It was a little bit of a roller coaster drop there for a
minute," he said. "We had some people fly out of some seats.
Everybody is fine, but it was a frightening little dip there."

The pilot aborted the approach and circled around the storm
before landing without incident about 20 minutes later to the
relief of the shaken team and the spouses of some staff members
also on the flight, Tessalone said.

Safety Taylor Mays said he was screaming.

At their hotel, senior defensive end Lawrence Jackson said he
was going to see the team trainer because a Popsicle stick had
pierced the inside of his mouth during the drop.

"That was terrifying," fullback Stanley Havili said. "I
thought I was going to die."

Quarterback John David Booty said, "It wasn't the worst flight
I've ever been on, but it was definitely the biggest drop."