NTSB to investigate United flight that met severe turbulence leaving Dulles

A United Airlines jetliner flying to Los Angeles from Dulles airport hit severe turbulence while flying over Kansas, injuring 30 and jolting one woman out of her seat so forcefully that she left a crack when she hit the side of the cabin.
By Martin Weil, Ovetta Wiggins and Luke Rosiak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 21, 2010; 12:49 PM

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into what caused a United Airlines jetliner that departed from Dulles International Airport to experience severe turbulence.

Les Dorr, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said Wednesday that the NTSB had opened the inquiry regarding Flight 967, which was headed to Los Angeles but diverted to Denver after experiencing turbulence over Kansas. The twin-engine Boeing 777 carried 255 passengers and a crew of 10.

Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for NTSB, confirmed the investigation but added: "We don't have any information at this time."

A United Airlines spokesman said 25 people were injured, including four crew members. The crew members were flight attendants.

A spokeswoman for one Denver hospital said it treated seven people Tuesday from the United flight.

Dee Martinez, a spokeswoman for Denver Health Medical Center, said all of the patients were treated and released. They suffered from "moderate head, neck and back injuries," Martinez said.

Flight 967, which was scheduled to leave Dulles at 5:25 p.m., landed in Denver about 7:30 p.m. Mountain time. An FAA spokesman said the flight "encountered severe turbulence above Kansas."

Deborah Atwood of Northwest Washington was seated in first class and headed to Los Angeles on business, according to her husband, Robert Hyman. Hyman said she sent him an e-mail recounting what happened:

"The plane just dropped thousands of feet," Atwood wrote. "I'm soaked in water and wine. Suffice it to say, it scared me."

Hyman said his wife's flight was delayed leaving Dulles, with the crew reporting bad weather an hour to the west. He said his wife sent him a text wondering why they didn't leave sooner to beat the storm. Flight data show that the plane's departure was 45 minutes late.

Atwood later told her husband that the flight encountered turbulence over Kansas. "She described it like you fell down an escalator shaft -- then all of a sudden you slam back up to the top," Hyman said.

Atwood, who was wearing a seat belt, reported being sore, her husband said.

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