Almost a dozen terrified passengers have been seriously injured after severe turbulence rocked a flight to Hawaii on Sunday.
With only 30 minutes left into the seven-hour Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu, the 278 passengers and 10 crew members on board were not prepared for the sudden movement.
Kaylee Reyes told Hawaii News Now that her mum had just sat down when the turbulence hit and did not have a chance to buckle her safety belt. “She flew up and hit the ceiling,” she said.
According to fellow passenger Jazmin Bitanga, there were two “intense” drops that left people fearing their lives. “I turned around and there was a couple of people bleeding and just bracing themselves,” she told the publication.
Following the wild disruption, which the airline called an isolated and unusual event, the Airbus A330-200 immediately began its descent and crew declared an emergency due to the number of injuries on board, Jon Snook, Hawaiian Airlines’s chief operating officer, said.
After landing in Honolulu at approximately 10.50am, paramedics treated 36 passengers, the Honolulu Emergency Medical Services said in a statement. Out of 20 people — the youngest being 14-months-old — 11 were taken to emergency rooms in serious condition and nine were transported in stable condition.
Wear your seatbelt @lmmswg: UPDATE: A look at some of the damage to the ceiling of a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu that hit severe turbulence shortly before landing.@ MeanHawaii
Abt 36 people were injured, including 11 seriously. pic.twitter.com/mf9JHFF6py
— Jillian Gustafson (@planesafeorg) December 19, 2022
At least one person was reported to have been rendered unconscious but all patients, including three flight attendants, were awake and talking when they arrived at hospitals.
Footage on Twitter shows a person being wheeled away by paramedics in a stretcher, as well as many ambulances being parked at the airport. Pictures taken from inside the plane reveal damage to the cabin's paneling.
Patients suffered cuts, including to the head, as well as bumps and bruises. Some people were nauseous and vomited as a result of extreme motion, Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, said. “We are also very happy and we feel fortunate that there were not any deaths or other critical injuries. And we’re also very hopeful that all will recover and make a full recovery,” he added.
What caused the turbulence?
Thomas Vaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said there had been a weather advisory for thunderstorms that included Oahu and areas that would have included the flight path at the time of the incident.
The airline was aware of the weather forecast and the unstable air and weather conditions, but had no warning the particular patch of air where the turbulence occurred “was in any way dangerous,” Mr Snook said.
An investigation into the incident is now underway and will examine what other measures were taken, aside from turning on the fasten seatbelt sign, to ensure passengers were buckled in, he said. It is unknown how much altitude the plane lost during the turbulence.
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