"It sounded like an explosion. Sounded like a big boom."
Merced's David Smith describes the shocking moment a five foot section of roof ripped open less than ten rows away from his seat.
"You can see outside within seconds the oxygen masks dropped down but within seconds, you know everyone's having a hard time breathing. Few people passing out here and there. Two of the flight attendants."
He says is ears kept popping and soon he could see the bright blue sky.
"It felt like just a non-stop pop, pop, pop, pop. Yeah just one every few seconds just kept going." added Smith.
The pilot quickly went into a nose dive from 34,000 to 11,000 feet before landing the plane safely in Yuma. But Smith says once on the ground -- they were forced to sit under the Desert Southwest sun for almost three hours.
"Reporter: So they wouldn't let you guys out? They wouldn't let you into the terminal or anything?
Smith: No. We had to stay on that plane right there on the runway."
They're jumping for joy now, but David's wife and five kids had no idea about his brush with death until he got back to Sacramento.
"That whole experience I don't ever want to deal with that again. Yeah definitely doing the you know praying thing. You kind of think about your whole life really fast."
Smith can now look back on Friday's emergency landing and smile about it but says no one believed what happened to him -- at least not right away.
"My boss at work, my wife. It was April 1st and everybody thought it was a joke. Everybody thought it was a joke." said Smith.
Even Smith's drive home to Merced wasn't routine. His car broke down and had to be towed. He'll be taking some time off work and says he won't be getting on a plane anytime soon.