Tur­bu­lence leaves three dozen injured on Air Canada flight

National Post (National Edition) - - Front Page - CHRISTO­PHER REYNOLDS

MON­TREAL• Pas­sen­gers aboard an Air Canada flight were sent fly­ing out of their seats and bang­ing into the over­head lock­ers when a plane hit se­vere tur­bu­lence in mid-air.

About three dozen pas­sen­gers and crew were injured Thurs­day on the Air Canada flight trav­el­ling from Toronto to Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. The plane di­verted to Honolulu. Eye­wit­nesses de­scribed a gut-churn­ing drop in al­ti­tude that slammed pas­sen­gers and flight at­ten­dants into the ceil­ing.

Linda Woodhouse, an Al­ber­tan who is mov­ing to Aus­tralia, said peo­ple had just be­gun to wake up and move around when the airplane ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral sec­onds of mi­nor tur­bu­lence. A few mo­ments later, “the plane just dropped,” she said.

“The lady in front of me flew up to the ceil­ing, so I was try­ing to grab her and make sure she wasn’t injured.

“Some peo­ple were ei­ther get­ting up to get up to the wash­room, or the first lit­tle bit of tur­bu­lence might have knocked their seat­belts off, and flight at­ten­dants were get­ting up to serve us,” she said in a phone interview from Honolulu air­port.

“Those in­di­vid­u­als un­for­tu­nately flew up and hit the ceil­ing of the plane and dropped back down again.”

Jess Smith told TV sta­tion KHON, “I saw the peo­ple ahead of me hit­ting the over­head bag­gage com­part­ments and then just slam­ming back into their seats.”

Alex Macdon­ald, a pas­sen­ger from Bris­bane, Aus­tralia, told the CBC, “(It) was just a bunch of noise, peo­ple ex­tremely shocked, and then a very eerie still­ness through­out the cabin as peo­ple tried to grasp what had hap­pened.”

Flight AC33 was about two hours past Hawaii over the Pa­cific Ocean early Thurs­day morn­ing when “un­fore­casted and sud­den tur­bu­lence” caused “mi­nor in­juries” for about 35 trav­ellers and trig­gered a turn­around, Air Canada said in an email — though lo­cal emer­gency ser­vices high­lighted nine “se­ri­ous” in­juries and 30 hos­pi­tal­iza­tions.

Woodhouse cred­its the crew and pas­sen­gers with spring­ing into ac­tion. Four pas­sen­gers with med­i­cal train­ing walked up and down the aisles, help­ing the injured and re­port­ing their is­sues to the pi­lots and crew.

“There were some fa­cial lac­er­a­tions, so they put ster­ile strips on them,” she said. “There were a cou­ple of peo­ple with head and neck in­juries from fly­ing up and hit­ting the ceil­ing.”

Woodhouse said Air Canada has told pas­sen­gers they will spend the night in a ho­tel and will likely con­tinue their jour­neys to­mor­row. De­spite the shock, she said she has no qualms about get­ting on the plane.

“It could have been a lot worse,” she said.

The air­craft, a Boe­ing 777200 jet­liner, had 269 pas­sen­gers and 15 crew mem­bers on board, who were greeted by med­i­cal per­son­nel on ar­rival at Honolulu air­port at 6:45 a.m. lo­cal time.

Thirty peo­ple were trans­ported to hos­pi­tal, with nine in “se­ri­ous” condition, said Honolulu Emer­gency Ser­vices Depart­ment spokes­woman Shayne En­right.

Paramedics as­sessed seven oth­ers who de­clined treat­ment, she said.

“A lot of lac­er­a­tions, bumps and bruises, neck and back pain,” En­right said. “No open frac­tures, noth­ing vis­i­ble.”

The air­line said it is ar­rang­ing ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tions and meals for pas­sen­gers in Honolulu as well as op­tions for re­sump­tion of the flight.

“Our first pri­or­ity is al­ways the safety of our flights, pas­sen­gers and crew,” Air Canada spokes­woman Is­abelle Arthur said.

HUR­RI­CANE FALL VIA REUTERS

An im­age from so­cial me­dia shows oxy­gen masks dropped from the cabin ceil­ing of Air Canada Flight AC33 after it ex­pe­ri­enced tur­bu­lence over the Pa­cific Ocean Thurs­day.

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