11 passengers were critically injured today during a flight from Phoenix to Honolulu due to severe turbulence, which a Hawaiian Airlines spokesman described as an isolated and unusual incident.
The airline hasn’t had “an event of this type in recent history,” according to chief operating officer Jon Snook. He revealed during an afternoon news conference that the flight was fully booked, carrying 278 passengers and 10 crew members.
36 people, including those with nausea or minor injuries, received care, according to Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services. He reported that 20 persons, including 11 people believed to be in serious condition, were transported to hospitals.
Three flight attendants were among those hurt, according to Snook.
According to Snook, the aircraft suffered some internal damage during the turbulence. Although some of those hurt weren’t wearing seatbelts at the time, the seatbelt indicator was on, he claimed.
At the time of the event, there was a weather advisory for thunderstorms that spanned Oahu and regions that would have included the flight path, according to Thomas Vaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
Although the airline was aware of the weather forecast, the unstable air, and the weather, Snook claimed it was not made aware that the specific air patch where the turbulence occurred “was in any way unsafe.”
He said the National Transportation Safety Board would conduct an inquiry to determine how much altitude the plane lost during the turbulence. He indicated that information would be available from the flight recorder of the aircraft.
After the turbulence, the Airbus A330-200 started to descend, and the crew immediately declared an emergency because of the large number of injuries, he said. The flight was given priority to land by the air traffic controllers.
According to Snook, the aircraft will go through a full inspection and maintenance, particularly to fix cabin-related parts.
Based on the injuries and the damage to the cabin paneling, Snook said he could only guess whether some passengers struck their heads.
The investigation will look at if any more steps were made to make sure passengers were wearing seatbelts in addition to turning on the fasten seatbelt sign, he said.