Air Canada flight makes emergency landing with 37 people injured
An Air Canada flight from Toronto to Sydney, Australia, with a stop in Vancouver, made an emergency landing in Honolulu on Thursday.
Air Canada Flight 33 was two hours west of Hawaii when it encountered unexpected severe turbulence over the Pacific Ocean.
"There was a bit of turbulence, and then it got a bit stronger. And then it went 'bang' and the people just shot up and then down again," said one passenger, who said some oxygen masks dropped down in certain sections. "People weren't expecting it."
Passenger Michael Bailey said it happened without warning.
"It was pretty quick. And a lot of people hit the ceiling. A lot of screaming. In the seat in front of me, the girl hit her head, and actually snapped and broke it (the ceiling compartment)," said Bailey. "It was scary for a brief moment, and then the plane levelled out."
The plane then turned and requested an emergency landing in Honolulu, touching down at 6:45 a.m. Hawaiian Time (12:45 EDT).
A source familiar with the situation told CTV News that at least two dozen passengers and one crew member were injured as a result.
In a statement Air Canada said that the injuries were considered minor and that medical personnel were examining the passengers.
"After examination it now appears that 35 customers sustained minor injuries,” said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick.
Health officials in Honolulu later 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.
Many of the people hurt have head and neck injuries.
Members of an Australian band were returning home on the flight after performing in Prince Edward Island. One of their band members was injured.
"It started get a little bit rocky, so I thought I'd better buckle up, and then about five seconds later, you just watch everyone's head in the plane who wasn't wearing a seatbelt hit the roof like a jack-in-a-box. It was pretty scary to see," said Tim Tricky. "One of our band members, our mate, he smacked it really hard and put a massive dent in the luggage compartment."
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor told The Canadian Press that medical staff were at the gate to tend to the injured.
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.
The plane was a Boeing 777 with 269 passengers and 15 crew members.
"We are currently making arrangements for the passengers including hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu, as well as options for resumption of the flight," said a spokesperson.
Without knowing the specifics of the incident, aviation analyst Phyl Durdey told CTV News Channel “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.”
Therefore he stressed how “vitally important” it was for passengers to have their seatbelts on during the entire flight.
- With files from CTVNews.ca Staff