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Bob Sauer, man who found door plug from Alaska Airlines plane, speaks out about his discovery

Bob Sauer appears on “Good Morning America,” on Jan. 9, 2024. (ABC News)

(PORTLAND, Ore.) — A teacher in Portland, Oregon, who found the door plug that was blown out of an Alaska Airlines plane says it has not been easy “to get to sleep” since his discovery.


Bob Sauer, a science teacher in Portland, Oregon, who teaches physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology and general science, spoke to ABC News’ Good Morning America on Tuesday about the surreal experience of finding the door plug when “all of Portland was looking for it.”

“I had heard about the incident on Friday when it happened, and I’ve been listening to the news all weekend, but I hadn’t realized…that the debris was in this neighborhood, so I hadn’t been paying much attention to that at all,” Sauer told GMA. “A friend of mine called me and said you should probably check your backyard because they’re still looking for the door. And so I thought about that for a while. And once I’d finished my work for the day, I came out to look for it, and that’s when I found it.”

The part fell off the plane, a Boeing 737 Max 9, around 5:11 p.m. local time Friday as the aircraft with 171 passengers, including three babies and four unaccompanied minors, had climbed to 16,000 feet after taking off from Portland International Airport, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plug, measuring 26-by-46 inches and weighing 63 pounds, was discovered intact Sunday evening in Sauer’s backyard.

“When I encountered it, it was really just disbelief,” Sauer said. “It was very hard to to understand that what everybody was looking for in Portland was actually in my backyard, and I was the first one to actually see it.”

Sauer said he then contacted the NTSB to inform them of his discovery.

“We were very careful not to touch anything during that time because I figured the NTSB would want to see it in the condition that had fallen in,” Sauer said.

It didn’t take long for word to get around town about what happened to Sauer, who said school was a “madhouse” after people heard.

“There wasn’t a lot of teaching going on,” Sauer joked. “I didn’t get much schoolwork done because so many people wanted to come in to interview me. My students wanted to know the story so I taught them during part of our classes together. It was pretty incredible to find it in my backyard when all of Portland was looking for it.”

Sauer also said he was out when the door plug landed in his yard.

“I think I wasn’t here when it fell because I was out Friday night and so I didn’t hear anything at all,” Sauer said. “It was sitting here quietly in my backyard until I actually came back here on Sunday.”

“It’s been rather surprising to me how much interest there is in this event and I’ve been contacted by people from all over the world, by media, but also friends, colleagues, relatives — all interested to know if I was the one and indeed I was,” he added.

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