Passengers accidentally told plane is crashing

(CBS News) -- Passengers aboard a British Airways flight got the scare of a lifetime Friday when they were mistakenly told that their plane was about to crash-land into the water.

"This is an emergency announcement," a female voice announced over the intercom as the 747 was cruising at 35,000 feet over the North Sea. "We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water."

Fortunately, the warning was a mistake - a pre-recorded emergency message that had been played by accident. With the wayward warning having sent the 330 passengers aboard the trans-Atlantic flight into a panic, flight attendants quickly rushed down the aisles to tell them that the announcement had been played in error.

"The cabin crew cancelled the announcement immediately and reassured customers that the flight was operating normally," the airline explained in a statement. "We apologized to customers for causing them undue concern."

According to those aboard the overnight flight from Miami to London, however, "undue concern" is a bit of an understatement.

"People were terrified, we all thought we were going to die," 32-year-old passenger Michelle Lord told the Daily Telegraph. "They said the pilot hit the wrong button because they were so close together."

"My wife was crying and passengers were screaming," another passenger told the British newspaper. "Then they played an announcement telling us to just ignore the warnings."

The same warning was mistakenly played aboard a British Airways flight from London to Hong Kong in August 2010.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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