People ‘thrown against ceiling’ and seriously injured by ‘intense’ turbulence

Multiple people were injured, 11 of them seriously, when a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 ran into severe turbulence about 30 minutes before landing in Hawaii on Sunday (December 18).

A “mass casualty emergency” was triggered – with 36 passengers injured in total – after the plane plummeted hundreds of feet without warning, and dozens of firefighters, paramedics and the state Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Team met the aircraft on the runway.

Paramedics cared for passengers and aircrew who had suffered serious head injuries, cuts, and bruises after the flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Honolulu encountered a “very extreme case of mid-air turbulence”

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One passenger, Kaylee Reyes told Hawaii News Now that the turbulence caught everyone on the aircraft by surprise.

She said her mother had just returned to her seat and hadn’t had a chance to buckle her seatbelt, when the aircraft suddenly dropped – sending dozens of people slamming into the ceiling.

“'The plane shook and then went into a sudden drop, kind of how you would if you were on a rollercoaster,” she explained.

Fellow passenger Jazmin Bitanga said there had actually been two “intense” drops in altitude — one so dramatic that her boyfriend’s water bottle flew out of his hands and cracked a ceiling panel.

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“I turned around and there was a couple of people bleeding and just bracing themselves,” she said, “… all around me there were people crying.”

While there were reports that one passenger had broken their neck when slamming into a ceiling panel, this turned out not to be the case and all of the injured are expected to make a full recovery.

The US National weather Service said the incident had happened at around 36,000 feet, as the aircraft was beginning its descent into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

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Hawaiian Air executive Jon Snook told reporters three flight attendants were among the injured and that the “fasten seatbelt” had on at the time of the incident.

He added that while “there’s a lot of unstable air” surrounding the Hawaiian islands, severe turbulence like this is uncommon.

National weather service meteorologist Genki Kino said that the aircraft may have passed though a thunderstorm, which may go some way towards explaining the dramatic incident.

“We believe the flight may have gone through a thunderstorm, which may have caused the severe turbulence,” he said. “During that time, there were scattered thunderstorms everywhere.”


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