'Worst turbulence ever' hospitalises 10 passengers
Drinks were 'hitting the ceiling'
Ten passengers on an American Airlines flight from Athens, Greece, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were hospitalised following what has been described as the “worst turbulence ever”.
Three passengers and seven cabin crew members were taken to a hospital after the plane carrying 287 passengers landed safely at Philadelphia International Airport on Sunday afternoon and have since been released. The seatbelt sign was turned on when the turbulence hit shortly before landing, the airline said in a statement.
The turbulence lasted around 30 minutes, during which passengers and drinks were “hitting the ceiling” as the plane began to shake and dropped in altitude, as if the “whole plane was in free fall”, according to passengers.
“I was looking forward and I just saw everything just move upwards about four feet," Alex Ehmke, who was on board the plane, told NBC News. "So, I saw drinks, you know, flying up against walls and up on the ceiling.”
"The gentleman directly behind us and diagonally behind us hit the ceiling himself," he added.
Cabin crew had just been serving drinks to the passengers when they were suddenly warned to return to their seats and fasten their seatbelts.
“Thirty minutes out. They were giving us our drinks. The flight attendants were in the last couple rows when they said 'fasten your seat belts.' And then they said for the flight attendants to get to their seats, and they didn't even have time. It started shaking, then it took a big drop. Babies screaming, people in front of us hitting the ceiling," Ian Smith of South Philadelphia told ABC affiliate WPVI.
"No warning at all. Plane lurched thru the air. Honestly, terrifying," Jessica Huseman, a reporter from ProPublica on board the flight, said.
Back in NYC. Turbulence on flight was so insane and unexpected a flight attendant dislocated his shoulder.— Jessica Huseman (@JessicaHuseman) August 5, 2017
Video footage captured by one passenger, Ervin Fang, posted on Twitter, showed the aftermath of the severe turbulence, with drinks splattered across the ceiling and the aisle cluttered by various items, while one passenger is seen clutching her face and a baby is heard crying in the background.
The captain of the plane can be heard apologising for the unexpected incident over the PA system, according to the video.
"We were expecting some light turbulence, the plane in front of us didn't report anything," the captain says.
"That was totally unexpected. We've asked the cabin crew to take an assessment of everyone and make sure everyone is okay," the captain added.
The airline has yet to confirm the suspected cause of the turbulence and the nature of the injuries of those treated at hospital, but one flight attendant was seen with a makeshift sling around his arm, while two passengers were seen holding ice packs on their heads, Mr Ehmke told NBC News.
Mr Fang, a physician from Los Angeles, also confirmed he provided medical assistance on board, having to carry out “shoulder relocation mid-air”, he posted on Twitter.