Air Canada passengers describe chaos after 37 injured in turbulence
Published Thursday, July 11, 2019 1:32PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 11, 2019 7:57PM EDT
An Air Canada flight en route to Australia was forced to make an emergency landing in Hawaii after dozens of passengers were injured during intense turbulence.
Health officials in Honolulu said 37 people on board suffered injuries in the incident, nine of which are considered serious. Thirty patients were rushed to local hospital, including flight crew, children and elderly passengers.
Those on board described a terrifying scene in which the plane suddenly dropped with only a few seconds of warning, flinging passengers and crew across the cabin. Officials said victims sustained head lacerations and neck, back and head injuries.
The plane was travelling from Vancouver to Sydney when it encountered unexpected turbulence just west of Hawaii on Thursday morning, Air Canada said.
Flight AC033 then made an unscheduled stop at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu at 6:45 a.m. local time, where six ambulances and 50 first responders were on scene.
Passenger Michael Bailey told CTV News that when the turbulence started “a lot of people hit the ceiling” and began screaming. He said the captain warned passengers just seconds before the turbulence hit.
“It must have dropped like, 100 feet or something because everyone went up to the ceiling throughout the plane. It was pretty scary,” he said.
Bailey added that a girl hit the overhead compartment and broke it from the force, and that a flight attendant working in the aisle was injured after a trolley fell on top of them.
Another passenger said it felt like the plane “whipped in the air.” Fellow passenger Lachlan Coffee said he felt like the plane was going to crash.
“It was like a scene from a movie,” he said. “It was really traumatic.”
Jim Howe, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, described the rapid response as the perfect representation of Hawaii’s “aloha spirit.”
“No lives lost and we’re very, very pleased with the outcome,” he said.
He added that most patients have been able to be in touch with family members on their personal phones.
An Air Canada spokesperson told CTV News that they were making arrangements for passengers including hotel accommodations, meals and travel options.
Aviation analyst Phyl Durdey told CTV News Channel that “this area is known for turbulence.”
He explained planes are designed to “take a lot of abuse” but he said injuries can come when passengers’ seatbelts aren’t securely fastened.
When the plane hits unexpected turbulence “(people) hit the overhead bins and that’s why you see so many people with neck injuries (and) head injuries because those people weren’t wearing their seatbelts.”
Durdey stressed how “vitally important” it was for passengers to have their seatbelts on during the entire flight.
Air Canada announced late Thursday that all of the injured passengers had been treated and released by hospitals. The company added that the flight was to resume Friday.