“Please keep your seat belt buckled at all times when you are in your seat,” says every flight attendant shortly after takeoff. Dozens of people on a flight from Canada to Australia didn’t follow that advice. As a result, they were violently slammed off the ceiling of a jetliner that encountered unexpected and intense turbulence over the Pacific Ocean Thursday.
An Air Canada flight to Australia made an emergency landing in Honolulu, Hawaii, after 37 people were injured onboard. The plane lost altitude suddenly when it hit “un-forecasted and sudden turbulence.” The pilot said nothing on the radar predicted the cause of the turbulence. The drop sent unsecured passengers flying out of their seats, crashing into the luggage compartments overhead, and dropping into the aisle.
The plane was already about two hours past Hawaii when the incident occurred. It diverted from its route then to return to Honolulu so that the injured could get treatment. Passengers who were medical professionals were asked to help those who were hurt.
“The plane just dropped,” passenger Stephanie Beam says. “When we hit turbulence, I woke up and looked over to make sure my kids were buckled. The next thing I knew there’s just literally bodies on the ceiling of the plane.”
The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 269 passengers and 15 crew members. Of the 37 passengers and flight crew members injured, nine had serious injuries, emergency responders said. Thirty people were taken to hospitals. Customs agents and emergency responders met passengers at the gate at the Honolulu airport to ensure they could get medical attention quickly. Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said injuries included cuts, bumps, bruises, neck pain, and back pain.
Air Canada arranged hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu while setting up options for resuming the flight.
Beam, who was traveling with her 10- and 11-year-old children tried to put a positive spin on the frightening ordeal. “If we’re going to be stuck somewhere, I can think of worse places,” she said.
(Responders treat a passenger on an Air Canada flight to Australia. The flight was diverted to land at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Thursday. It encountered violent turbulence that flung unbuckled passengers from their seats. AP Photo)