HONOLULU, July 13: Dozens of people were violently slammed off the ceiling of a jetliner that encountered unexpected and intense turbulence over the Pacific Ocean.
An Air Canada flight to Australia made an emergency landing in Honolulu after 37 people were injured, nine seriously, during the sudden loss of altitude that sent people flying into the luggage compartments and aisles of the airplane.
The flight from Vancouver to Sydney encountered "un-forecasted and sudden turbulence," about two hours past Hawaii when the plane diverted to Honolulu, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in a statement.
"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.
Of the 37 passengers and flight crew members injured, nine had serious injuries, emergency responders said. Thirty people were taken to hospitals.
Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Chief Dean Nakano said the injured ranged in age from children to the elderly.
Customs agents and emergency responders met passengers at the gate at the Honolulu airport to ensure they could get medical attention quickly.
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.
Llyn Williams was traveling with his wife, Erica Daly, back to their home in Sydney, Australia. His wife was injured and taken to the hospital.
He said when they hit the violent turbulence, "everybody who was not seated and belted in hit the roof, almost everybody in our cabin."
Williams described the cabin afterward as frightening, with plastic lying around and oxygen masks dangling. "A lot of blood everywhere," he said. "It was really quite scary."
The turbulence happened at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters) about 600 miles (966 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, said US 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. - AP