37 believed injured after turbulence forces Vancouver-Australia flight to divert to Hawaii
According to the airline, flight AC33, which was destined for Sydney, Australia, ran into “un-forecasted and sudden turbulence” about two hours past Hawaii, and was forced to divert to Honolulu‘s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
The flight had originated in Toronto before stopping in Vancouver.
The aircraft, a twin-jet Boeing 777-200LR/F lifted off from Vancouver at about 12:30 a.m., with 269 passengers and 15 crew aboard.
WATCH: Oxygen masks drop as Air Canada flight diverted because of turbulence
“The plane went out from under us and then boom we were up in the air,” said passenger Sharon Thornton. “It’s very scary, I’ve never had that happen before and I’ve flown a lot all over the world.”
Thornton said it appeared several people had suffered broken bones. Crew moved the injured into first class until the flight landed, she said.
“The lady in front of us, I don’t think she had her seat belt on, she hit the ceiling. A couple of stewardesses were injured and a lot of people had cuts to their heads.”
Honolulu health officials said 37 people were injured, 30 of whom were transported to hospital.
Nine patients are in serious condition, they added, while the rest of those transported sustained minor injuries.
“This kind of incident, we train for and we were ready. I think we handled it well,” Honolulu EMS Chief Dean Nakano said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
WATCH: Honolulu officials say they ‘were ready’ to handle injuries from diverted Air Canada flight
One of the patients was estimated to be as young as four years old, Nakano said, although he couldn’t say for sure at the time.
In an email, Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah said the flight landed normally at Honolulu at 12:45 p.m. ET.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our flights, passengers and crew and as a precaution, medical personnel are on standby to examine passengers in Honolulu,” Mah said.
WATCH: Passengers recounted the moment turbulence hit an Air Canada flight that forced the plane to land in Honolulu
Mah later confirmed all patients have been released from hospital.
Passenger Michael Bailey said there were only a few seconds of warning before the plane dropped.
“We just hit turbulence, it was pretty quick, and a lot of people hit the ceiling. A lot of screaming. The seat in front of me, the girl hit the plastic overhead and actually snapped it, broke it, and the oxygen masks came down and a lot of panic,” he said.
“The stewards brought the trolley through just before it happened, so I think one of the stewards was badly injured when the trolley fell on top of them.”
Four-piece Australian band Hurricane Fall said it was on the flight, but reported on social media all members were OK.
The band’s lead singer and bass player Pepper Deroy sustained nerve damage to his forearm, the band said, but was given clearance to leave the hospital.
“It was probably one of the scariest experiences of our lives, I can say pretty confidently,” the band’s guitarist Tim Tricky told Global News. “It was a massive drop, and the whiplash we felt from the back of the plane [where we were], it kind of went up first and then just smacked straight down.
“Pepper is getting some beers into him so he’s feeling better. Probably not a good idea with those painkillers though,” he added.
Other passengers praised the actions of the flight attendants, who they say helped them even while they were suffering from their own injuries.
WATCH: What causes airplane turbulence?
“Three of the attendants had gotten hurt themselves, but they were still checking on everybody,” passenger Linda Pellascini said. “Then they would come back and check again and make sure you didn’t hit your head or your hand or something. They were wonderful.”
Canadian passenger Linda Woodhouse said she and other passengers also did their best to attend to the injured.
“The initial instinct was to help the people if they’ve flown out of their seats and landed on the floor,” she said.
“The lady in front of me hit her head and landed in the aisle, so your initial instinct is to try and keep your seatbelt on, but lean over and help.”
A spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said the agency “is aware of this occurrence and [is] gathering information and assessing at this point.”
In a statement, Transport Canada said it “takes all reports of turbulence seriously” and that when severe turbulence is reported, it follows up with airlines to ensure proper procedures were followed.
A spokesperson from Transportation Minister Marc Garneau’s office also released a statement, saying officials were prepared to provide support to affected Canadians.
“We are aware of the recent diversion of, and reports of injuries on, an Air Canada flight en route to Sydney, Australia that was forced to make an emergency landing in Honolulu, Hawaii,” reads the statement.
“We are actively monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to take appropriate action where required.”
WATCH: Turbulent Air Canada flight with injured passengers forced to land in Hawaii
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration released a statement saying the flight encountered turbulence at 36,000 feet (10,972 metres), after which it diverted and requested medical assistance at the gate.
Air Canada said passengers have been re-booked for a new flight to Sydney expected to leave Friday at 12 p.m. Hawaii time with another aircraft and crew.
In the meantime, the airline said it has arranged hotel accommodation and meals for them in Honolulu.
The aircraft in Honolulu will undergo a maintenance check before returning to service. No damage has yet been reported.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.