Tuesday 27 September 2016

'Only warning we had was a little bit of a shudder' - Passengers describe turbulence horror that left 12 injured

David Raleigh and Pat Flynn

Published 01/09/2016 | 02:30

Engineers inspecting the United Airlines Boeing 767-300 that made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport yesterday. Photo: Brian Gavin
Engineers inspecting the United Airlines Boeing 767-300 that made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport yesterday. Photo: Brian Gavin

Twelve people were taken to hospital with head injuries, cuts and bruises after the plane they were travelling in dropped suddenly over the Atlantic Ocean.

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The United Airlines aircraft, a Boeing 767-300, had to make an emergency landing at Shannon Airport after it struck a suspected air pocket, which passengers reported caused the plane to "just drop".

The airline stated the plane hit "severe and unexpected turbulence".

Injured passengers included a female toddler and an older boy and girl.

Passenger Gregory Giagnocavo was travelling to Heathrow to visit his daughter when the incident happened.

Speaking to BBC radio, he said: "It came upon us suddenly in the middle of the night, about four hours out from Heathrow over the Atlantic and without any warning at all. There were four dramatic drops in altitude.

"The only warning we had was a little bit of a shudder before the first one and then this tremendous turbulence.

"It was petrifying but the one thing that saved more people from being hurt was that it was in the middle of the night, most people were sleeping and had their seat belts on.

"One of the flight attendants fell in the galley area, and she cut her head and blood was running down her arm," Mr Giagnocavo said.

A statement from University Hospital Limerick said staff were alerted at 5.30am of an incident aboard a transatlantic flight "and that a medical diversion was being made to Shannon Airport with a possible 23 casualties".

It added: "Twelve people were transported to hospital, nine adults and three children. Two of the 12 were crew members. The casualties in the main presented with soft tissue injuries, minor head injuries and lacerations."

Read more: Passenger tells of '1,000ft drops' after severe turbulence hits US-London flight

By 10.30am yesterday, 11 patients had been discharged.

A statement from United Airlines said that 14 passengers and two crew members were injured and taken to hospital.

There were 207 passengers, a three-member cockpit crew, and 10 flight attendants on board, according to the airline.

"United Airlines is providing care and support to customers and crew of flight UA880 which experienced severe and unexpected turbulence during a flight from Houston to London Heathrow," the airline stated.

"The aircraft diverted to Shannon Airport in Ireland where it was met by medical personnel. We wish these passengers and crew a quick recovery from their injuries."

Irish Independent

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