Tim Trickey buckled up just in time.
The Australian passenger aboard an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Sydney felt the plane tremble. It reminded him: He needed to fasten his seat belt. Then, the plane dropped.
“You just watched everyone’s head in the plane — who wasn’t wearing a seat belt — just hit the roof like a jack-in-a-box,” Trickey told KITV. “It was pretty scary to see.”
The sudden bout of wrenching turbulence launched passengers into the air and sent some so high they slammed into the baggage compartments above. The violent, if brief, plummet injured at least 37 people and diverted the flight to Honolulu for an emergency stop on Thursday.
The plane, a Boeing 777, was about 600 miles southwest of the Hawaii capital and 36,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean when it hit rough air, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
Photographs of the aftermath show boxes of airplane food strewn about the cabin’s floor and oxygen masks hanging from the plane’s ceiling.
Of the roughly three dozen injured, 30 were transported to area hospitals after medical staff met the aircraft as it landed at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. First responders said 21 of the injuries were minor and nine were serious. Most were to passengers’ necks and backs, and some suffered cuts on their heads. A child who was about 4 years old was among those hurt, Chief Dean Nakano of Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services said at a news conference.
Every passenger who was transported to a hospital has been treated and released, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah told The Washington Post. The airliner is paying for meals and hotel rooms for the 269 waylaid passengers and its 15 crew members, Mah said, and the flight to Sydney will resume Friday at noon local time.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our flights, passengers and crew,” she said.
After the flight landed, those aboard described the moment the aircraft lurched as one of sheer terror.
“I didn’t want to get up,” Laurie Tyler told CTV. “Some people at the back fell out of their chairs and into the aisle, so it was wild.”
Stephanie Beam, who was traveling with her two children, woke up when the plane began to shake. She checked to make sure her kids were strapped in, she told the Associated Press.
“The next thing I knew there’s just literally bodies on the ceiling of the plane,” Beam said.
Panic aside, as far as impromptu layovers go, she conceded the tropical island is not a bad destination.
“If we’re going to be stuck somewhere,” Beam said, “I can think of worse places.”