'Bodies on the ceiling': Horror turbulence forces Sydney flight into emergency landing

Dozens of people were injured when an Air Canada flight to Australia encountered unexpected turbulence, forcing the plane to land in Hawaii on Thursday.

The flight from Vancouver to Sydney encountered “un-forecasted and sudden turbulence,” about two hours past Hawaii when the plane diverted to Honolulu, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in a statement.

“The plane just dropped,” passenger Stephanie Beam told The Associated Press.

“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.”

Photo of an Air Canada aircraft leaving Sydney after several passengers were injured in severe turbulence.
A different Air Canada aircraft is seen leaving Sydney International Airport. Source: AAP

A woman behind her hit the ceiling so hard that she broke the casing of an oxygen mask, said Ms Beam, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Current information indicates there are approximately 35 people who appear to have sustained minor injuries,” Ms Mah said.

Emergency responders met the plane at the gate. Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright says injuries included cuts, bumps, bruises, neck pain and back pain.

More than two dozen people were taken to hospitals, she said.

“I watched a whole bunch of people hit the ceiling of the plane,” said another passenger Alex MacDonald.

File photo of plane aisle after passengers were smashed into the ceiling of an Air Canada flight during the violent turbulence.
Passengers reportedly smashed into the ceiling during the violent turbulence. Source: File/Getty Images

“A couple of the air hostesses were bringing food out at the time, and they hit the roof as well.”

Passenger Luke Wheeldon told Honolulu news station KTIV about half the passengers weren’t wearing seatbelts.

“There was no warning and then half of them, their head hit the roof all at once,” he said. “And I went, ‘Oh, this is a bad day.’”

Australian passenger Tim Trickey said people who weren’t wearing seatbelts flung towards the ceiling “like a Jack in a Box”.

Babies and children were crying as crew members went through the cabin assessing injuries.

"We hit turbulence and we all hit the roof and everything fell down, and stuff ... people went flying," passenger Jess Smith told CBC News.

"I watched a whole bunch of people hit the ceiling of the plane," said another passenger Alex MacDonald.

"A couple of the air hostesses were bringing food out at the time, and they hit the roof as well. But as a whole people seem to be OK; didn't seem to be any major injuries."

About 15 minutes later, there was an announcement asking for passengers who are medical professionals to help, Ms Beam said.

Photo of Australians Tim Trickey and Jesse Visser who were on board an Air Canada flight when it experienced the turbulence.
Australians Tim Trickey and Jesse Visser were on board the flight when it experienced the turbulence. Source: AP via KITV

The turbulence happened at 10,973 meters, about 966 kilometers southwest of Honolulu, said US Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 269 passengers and 15 crew members, according to Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

Air Canada was arranging hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu and options for resuming the flight, Ms Mah said.

“If we’re going to be stuck somewhere, I can think of worse places,” said Ms Beam, traveling with her children, aged 10 and 11.

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