Hawaii passengers describe ‘roller coaster’ flight in which 36 were injured

Struck passengers aboard a turbulent Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu that injured three dozen people described how the horrific journey felt like a “roller coaster ride.”

Officials said 20 people – including a 14-month-old baby – were taken to hospital with injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to serious head injuries, including 11 patients who were in serious condition from Sunday’s flight. Another 16 were also treated for injuries.

Passenger Kaylee Reyes, who flew with her mother, told Hawaii News Now that her mother had just sat down after returning from the toilet and had no chance to buckle her seat belt when the turbulence first rocked the plane.

“The plane shook and then suddenly crashed like you would if you were on a roller coaster,” she said. “My mom wasn’t wearing a seat belt and she flew up and hit the ceiling and then the floor.”

Kaylee Reyes said her mother slammed into the ceiling of the plane when Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 was rocked by sudden turbulence that felt like one "roller coaster" fall.
Kaylee Reyes said her mother slammed into the ceiling of the plane when Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 was rocked by sudden turbulence that felt like a “roller coaster.”
KGMB / KHNL
Cracks can be seen in the plane's plastic panels after Sunday's incident, which injured 36 people.
Cracks can be seen in the plane’s plastic panels after Sunday’s incident, which injured 36 people.
AP
The intense turbulence resulted in oxygen masks being deployed on board the packed plane.
The intense turbulence resulted in oxygen masks being deployed on board the packed plane.
AP

Reyes recalled observing several passengers with head injuries surrounding them.

“When we landed, paramedics came and had to wheel people out,” she told the outlet. “Quite a few people had lacerations on their heads and blood was dripping down.”

The aircraft carried 10 crew members and a full cabin with 278 passengers, many of whom came to spend the family vacation. Three flight attendants were among the injured who were taken to hospitals on arrival.

At least one person is believed to have lost consciousness, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services director Jim Ireland said Sunday.

“We are also very fortunate and we feel fortunate that there have been no fatalities or other serious injuries. And we are also very confident that everyone is recovering and will make a full recovery,” Ireland said.

Jazmin Bitanga, who was flying home for the holidays, said there were two elevation changes – one so severe that her boyfriend’s water bottle was thrown into the plane’s ceiling and shattered it.

“My life flashed before my eyes. I was scared,” she said. “I turned around and there were a couple of people bleeding and just bracing themselves. People were crying all around me.”

Jazmin Bitanga, who flew home for the holidays, said her life flashed before her eyes as the turmoil began.
Jazmin Bitanga, who flew home for the holidays, said her life flashed before her eyes as the turmoil began.
KGMB/KHNL

Twitter user @lynnxxyy shared video taken after the severe shaking on the plane and wrote: “Scariest flight experience: Very severe turbulence occurred mid-flight and some people sustained head injuries from impact with the ceiling. I’m sure just very upset.”

The passenger said they sustained a hip injury and suffered from “minor anxiety attacks” after the “very traumatic event.”

Additional footage captured in the cabin after the dramatic flight showed the plane’s interior in disarray, with broken plastic panels, supplies on the floor and oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.

Hawaiian Airlines COO Jon Snook said at a news conference that such turbulence was isolated and unusual, noting that the airline had not experienced anything like it in recent history.

“Sometimes these air pockets appear without warning. Such extreme turbulence is rare. It was a very extreme case of turbulence in the air,” Snook said.

Twenty people were taken to hospital, including a 14-month-old baby, with injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to serious head injuries.
Twenty people were taken to hospital, including a 14-month-old baby, with injuries ranging from bumps and bruises to serious head injuries.
Courtesy of Kaylee Reyes

“We are very grateful that the extent of the injuries was not critical,” he added. “It could be worse.”

There was some internal damage to the plane during the turbulence, Snook said. The seat belt sign was on at the time, although some of the injured were not wearing them, he said.

Thomas Vaughan, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said there was a weather advisory for thunderstorms that included Oahu and areas that would have included the trajectory at the time of the turbulence.

The airline was aware of the weather forecast and unstable air and weather conditions, but had no warning that the particular patch of air where the turbulence was occurring “was dangerous in any way,” Snook said.

He didn’t know how much altitude the plane lost during the turbulence and said it was part of an investigation involving the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane’s flight data recorder would provide those details, he said.

Injured passengers were observed bleeding from lacerations and at least one person is said to have lost consciousness.
Injured passengers were observed bleeding from lacerations and at least one person is said to have lost consciousness.
AP

The investigation would also look at exactly what the passengers and crew were doing at the time, he said.

The Airbus A330-200 began its descent immediately after the turbulence and the crew declared a state of emergency because of the many injuries on board, he said. Air traffic controllers gave priority to the flight to land.

The aircraft will undergo a thorough inspection and maintenance, primarily to repair components in the cabin, Snook said.

Snook said he could only speculate if some passengers hit their heads, but that was likely due to the injuries and damage to the cabin trim.

“If you’re not wearing your seat belt, you stay where you are while the plane goes down, and that’s how those injuries happen,” Snook said.

The inquiry will look at what other measures were taken, besides turning on the seat belt sign, to ensure passengers were buckled, he said.

This mobile photo, courtesy of passenger Jazmin Bitanga, shows the interior of a Hawaiian Airlines plane on its flight from Phoenix to Honolulu on Sunday.

This mobile photo, courtesy of passenger Jazmin Bitanga, shows the interior of a Hawaiian Airlines plane on its flight from Phoenix to Honolulu on Sunday.


Supplies are seen strewn on the floor of the plane after severe turbulence on Sunday.

Supplies are seen strewn on the floor of the plane after severe turbulence on Sunday.


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A row of seats is seen after the turbulence that left 36 people injured.

A row of seats is seen after the turbulence that left 36 people injured.


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In 2019, 37 passengers and flight crew were injured when an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Sydney encountered severe turbulence about two hours into Hawaii. The Boeing 777-200 was diverted to Honolulu where the injured were treated. 30 people were taken to hospitals and nine seriously injured.

Over the Atlantic, a 2017 American Airlines flight from Athens encountered severe turbulence along the New York coast. Seven crew members and three passengers were injured.

Most people associate turbulence with severe storms. But the most dangerous are the so-called clear air turbulences. The wind shear phenomenon can occur in thin cirrus clouds or even in clear air near thunderstorms because temperature and pressure differences create strong currents of fast-moving air.

Airplanes can sail into clear air turbulence without warning.

With mail wires

https://nypost.com/2022/12/19/hawaii-flight-passengers-describe-rollercoaster-turbulence-that-left-36-injured/ Hawaii passengers describe ‘roller coaster’ flight in which 36 were injured

JACLYN DIAZ

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