Turbulence Forces Air Canada Flight To Land In Hawaii

Jul 11, 2019

Updated: July 11, 4:17 p.m.

Intense turbulence struck an Air Canada flight to Australia on Thursday and sent unbuckled passengers flying into the ceiling, leaving 37 people injured and forcing the plane to land in Hawaii.

The flight from Vancouver to Sydney encountered "un-forecasted and sudden turbulence," about two hours past Hawaii when the plane diverted to Honolulu, leaving 37 people injured, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in a statement.

According to Honolulu Emergency Service Officials, 30 people were transported to the hosptial-- nine with serious injuries and 21 in stable condition. Three crew members were among those injured during the flight. No lives were lost during the incident.

"The plane just dropped," passenger Stephanie Beam told The Associated Press. "When we hit turbulence, I woke up and looked over to make sure my kids were buckled. The next thing I knew there's just literally bodies on the ceiling of the plane."

A woman behind her hit the ceiling so hard that she broke the casing of an oxygen mask, said Beam, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Emergency responders met the plane at the gate. Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said injuries included cuts, bumps, bruises, neck pain and back pain. More than two dozen people were taken to hospitals, she said.

"I watched a whole bunch of people hit the ceiling of the plane," said another passenger Alex MacDonald. "A couple of the air hostesses were bringing food out at the time, and they hit the roof as well."

Passenger Luke Wheeldon told Honolulu news station KTIV about half the passengers weren't wearing seatbelts.

"There was no warning and then half of them, their head hit the roof all at once," he said. "And I went, 'Oh, this is a bad day.'"

Babies and children were crying as crew members went through the cabin assessing injuries. About 15 minutes later, there was an announcement asking for passengers who are medical professionals to help, Beam said.

Those injured included children as young as 4 years old to adults. Officials do not know the final results of those that were hospitalized but said the patients were recieving medical testing and necessary treatment. There were an estimated 50 first responders on the scene from the Federal Fire Department, American Medicial Response and Honolulu Emergency Medical Services. 

The turbulence happened at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters) about 600 miles (966 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, said U.S. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.

The Boeing 777-200 was carrying 269 passengers and 15 crew members, according to Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

Air Canada was arranging hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu and options for resuming the flight. The flight to Australia will resume tomorrow, July 12, at noon local Hawaii time. 

"If we're going to be stuck somewhere, I can think of worse places," said Beam, traveling with her 10- and 11-year-old children.

Hawaii Public Radio contributed reporting to this story.