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Hawaiian Airlines Passengers Recount 'Violent Turbulence' On Flight

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the flight, which had to make an emergency landing due to numerous injuries on board.
Posted at 2:46 PM, Dec 20, 2022

 "There was a lot of screaming and blood," Jodette Neely said following a violently turbulent flight from Phoenix to Honolulu Sunday.

"When it [the plane] veered to the left, all of a sudden we jumped up and then went to the right," she said. "It was very unstable and then we just went flying up in the air [inside the plane]."

Neeely was one of nearly 300 people aboard the flight. Emergency officials say 20 people on board were taken to hospitals and 11 were seriously injured.

11 People Seriously Injured Amid Turbulence On Hawaii Flight

11 People Seriously Injured Amid Turbulence On Hawaii Flight

A total of 36 passengers received treatment for injuries during a flight from Phoenix to Honolulu Sunday.

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Tiffany Reyes had just gotten back to her seat from the bathroom and was about to buckle her safety belt when Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 dipped.

In an instant, Reyes found herself on the aisle floor, staring up at caved-in ceiling panels and a cracked bathroom sign that was hanging.

“I asked everyone around me, ’Was that me?” Reyes said in an interview Monday. “They said I had apparently flown into the ceiling and slammed into the ground.”

Reyes was heading home after picking up her daughter Kaylee from college. She initially thought something had hit the plane and that it was crashing. She briefly thought they were going to die because she had never encountered anything so violent on a flight before.

“That’s the most terrifying experience I’ve been through in my whole 40 years of life,” Reyes said.

Others had it much worse, Reyes said. She saw a woman walk off the plane with gashes in her head and blood on her face and clothes.

Courtesy of Jazmin Bitanga via AP

Hawaiian Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jon Snook said such turbulence is isolated and unusual, noting the airline had not experienced anything like it in recent history. Three flight attendants were among the injured, he said.

There was some internal damage to the aircraft during the turbulence, Snook said. The fasten-seat belts sign was on at the time, though some of those injured were not wearing them, he said.

The airline was aware of the forecast for thunderstorms and unstable air and weather conditions, but had no warning that the particular patch of air where the turbulence occurred "was in any way dangerous,” Snook said.

He did not know how much altitude the plane lost during the turbulence, saying that would be part of an investigation involving the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane's flight data recorder would provide those details, he said.

The Airbus A330-200 began its descent immediately after the turbulence, Snook said. The crew declared an emergency because of the number of injuries on board and air traffic controllers gave the flight priority to land.

The aircraft will undergo a thorough inspection and maintenance, mostly to fix components in the cabin, Snook said.

Most people associate turbulence with heavy storms. But the most dangerous type is so-called clear-air turbulence. The wind-shear phenomenon can occur in wispy cirrus clouds or even clear air near thunderstorms, as differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it is investigating the incident.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.