A SUNSHINE break ended in mid-air drama for North-East holidaymakers, when their flight home was forced to make an emergency landing after a loss of cabin pressure.

Vicki Standing thought she and her family were going to die when their flight from Paphos, in Cyprus, to Newcastle, began a rapid descent just an hour into the five-hour trip on Wednesday (June 4).

Passengers on Jet2 flight LS516 donned oxygen masks as the Boeing 757 jet dropped more than 23,000ft in five minutes, before landing at Sofia, in Bulgaria, almost an hour later.

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Emergency vehicles were waiting on the tarmac, but it was not necessary to evacuate the plane.

Passengers waited several hours for a replacement aircraft and crew to be sent to Bulgaria from Manchester, to enable them to resume their journey.

Mrs Standing, from Darlington, was with her sons Thomas, 14, and three-year-old James, as well as her parents, Neil and Jan Berry, from Norton, in Stockton.

She said: “I knew there was something wrong before the oxygen masks were deployed, as we were only about an hour in when the plane started to slow down.

“My ears were popping, so I knew we were losing altitude. My eldest son told me to stop panicking, but I knew something wasn't right.

“The seat belt sign came on without any turbulence, which I thought was strange.

"The next thing I knew, I heard the word ‘emergency’ and then the masks were deployed.”

Mrs Standing, 40, feared her youngest son would lose consciousness as he didn’t want to wear the mask at first.

She added: “The plane was drastically descending, which we later found out had to happen to get us to the 10,000ft altitude to be able to breathe.

“I was thinking we were about to crash, we were shaking and we did think ‘this is it’.

“The pilot did a magnificent job of getting us down and the staff were extremely good at keeping everyone calm once they knew what was happening.

“To top it all off, we had to fly around a storm as the weather was horrendous in Sofia.

“I was so glad to get on the ground. Many people were very shaken up.”

The family eventually arrived home at 6am on Thursday.

A Jet2 spokeswoman said the flight was diverted as a ‘precautionary measure’.

She added: “The aircraft landed safely and passengers returned to Newcastle on a replacement aircraft. We apologise to passengers for any inconvenience.”