UPDATED 1:58 p.m.
More than 50 emergency responders converged at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport this morning after dozens of passengers aboard an Air Canada flight sustained injuries after the aircraft experienced sudden turbulence while en route to Sydney from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Based on preliminary information, 37 people sustained injuries aboard Air Canada Flight AC 33. Of that figure, 30 people — 21 people with minor injuries and nine people with serious injuries — were taken to the hospital, according to Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Chief Dean Nakano at a news conference held at the Honolulu airport this afternoon.
Seven people refused transportation to the hospital.
An Air Canada flight was forced to divert to Honolulu this morning after the plane experienced “sudden turbulence,” injuring dozens on board, officials said.
Air Canada Flight AC33 was en route to Sydney from Vancouver, British Columbia, when it encountered turbulence about two hours past Hawaii. The 777-200 airplane subsequently diverted to Honolulu and landed at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport at 6:45 a.m. today.
The number of people injured was increased to 37, officials said at a news conference this afternoon.
The turbulence happened at 36,000 feet about 600 miles southwest of Honolulu, said U.S. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.
“We hit turbulence and we all hit the roof and everything fell down, and stuff … people went flying,” passenger Jess Smith told CBC News.
Vanessa Say said she was sleeping when she felt a bit of turbulence.
The seat-belt light then went on.
“Before anyone had a chance to buckle up, we just plummeted through the air. … It was like being on a roller coaster, that dropping feeling in your stomach,” Say said.
“Anybody who didn’t have their seat belts on flew out of their seats,” she added.
Say, who was seated in Row 40, struck her head on the luggage compartment above her seat, and her friend struck her head by the air vents.
Say is wearing a neck brace after suffering whiplash from the impact, and her friend got three staples to her head from her injury.
After that one drop in the air, the plane stabilized. People were scrambling to help each other, Say said. “I think a lot of people were in shock.”
She noted a woman seated next to her was nursing her baby at the time when the baby catapulted into the air and fell onto the aisle.
All of the air masks from the ceiling also came down.
A preliminary email from Air Canada had put the number of injured people aboard the flight at 25. However, “current information indicates there are approximately 35 people who appear to have sustained minor injuries,” Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said later this morning in a statement.
Emergency responders met the plane at the gate. Gregor said crew members asked for medical personnel to meet the plane at the gate.
Fifteen crew members and 269 passengers were aboard the plane.
Airline officials are making arrangements for passengers, including hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu.
Another passenger, Pepper Deroy, who was asleep when the sudden turbulence occurred flew out of his seat and struck his right arm on the armrest, causing nerve damage to his forearm and elbow.
Medical personnel treated him after passengers deplaned in Honolulu. He was then taken to Pali Momi Medical Center and subsequently released.
“It was a very traumatic, horrible experience,” said Deroy’s band-mate, Lachlan Coffey of Hurricane Fall, a country-rock band based in Australia.
“There was a lot of people yelling and upset. Little kids were crying,” he added.
Coffey, Deroy and their other band-mates — Jesse Visser, Tim Tricky and Luke Wheeldon — were flying back to Australia after performing at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival in Canada.
Lachlan praised the Air Canada staff for tending to all of the passengers. “They were really good,” he said.