An Air Canada plane on its way from Vancouver, Canada, to Sydney, Australia, rerouted to Honolulu International Airport on July 11, 2019, after experiencing severe turbulence partway through the flight. Nine people onboard Flight AC33 suffered severe injuries, and dozens more suffered minor injuries in the incident.
Passengers Suffered Neck and Back Injuries
There were 269 passengers and 15 crew aboard the Boeing 777-200. Approximately two hours after it passed Hawaii, the plane hit severe turbulence and diverted back to land in Honolulu, where injured passengers were taken to the hospital.
According to reports, passengers suffered neck, back, and head injuries, as well as lacerations. Those injured ranged from children to the elderly. In all, 30 people were taken to the hospital, nine in serious condition and 21 with minor injuries. Another seven refused to go to the hospital.
“We hit turbulence and we all hit the roof, and everything fell down … people went flying,” passenger Jess Smith told a local television station.
The Air Canada aircraft hit turbulence at approximately 36,000 feet while flight attendants were handing out snacks. One passenger estimated the plane dropped about 100 feet in the turbulence, which lasted about 10 to 15 seconds.
“I saw the people ahead of me hitting the overhead baggage compartments and then just slamming back into their seats,” said another passenger, Alex Macdonald.
Immediately following the turbulence, crew members went through the cabin checking for injuries. Shortly after, an announcement was made asking for passengers who are medical professionals to assist.
Passenger Tim Hickey called the turbulence “horrifying—absolutely violent,” and compared it to a scene from a horror movie inside an airplane.
The flight was expected to continue to Sydney on July 12. Air Canada said it made arrangements for passengers to have hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu until the flight could proceed.
FAA Releases Statement on Turbulence
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a statement, noting that Air Canada Flight 33 encountered turbulence at 36,000 feet, that the flight diverted, and that the crew requested medical personnel meet the plane at the gate.
Turbulence and In-Flight Injuries
Typically, turbulence is mild to moderate, but there are situations in which it is severe enough to cause serious injuries to passengers on planes. When planes encounter severe turbulence, passengers who are not wearing seatbelts can be thrown around in a plane, causing injuries and, in extreme cases, death. Turbulence refers to air movement that is usually not seen. It is caused by a variety of conditions and can occur even in clear weather (known as “clear air turbulence”).
Turbulence is the leading cause of injuries to airline passengers and flight crew in non-fatal incidents.
Air Canada In-Flight Turbulence Lawyers
If you or a family member suffered injuries as a result of severe inflight turbulence, you need an experienced aviation accident attorney to thoroughly investigate the incident and ensure you receive the compensation you’re entitled to. Contact an attorney at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman to discuss your claim.