10 in hospital after ‘terrifying’ turbulence on American Airlines flight to Philadelphia

Flight from Greece was hit by wild turbulence shortly before landing in the US, throwing passengers, crew and debris crashing into plane’s ceiling

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 August, 2017, 10:15pm

An American Airlines flight from Greece to Philadelphia was hit by “severe turbulence” just before landing, injuring at least 10 people, the airline said.

The three passengers and seven crew members injured in Saturday’s flight from Athens were taken to a hospital for treatment.

“I was looking forward and I just saw everything just move upward about 4 feet,” passenger Alex Ehmke told NBC News. “So, I saw drinks, you know, flying up against walls and up on the ceiling.”

The airline said Flight 759 – carrying 287 passengers and a dozen crew members – briefly encountered severe turbulence shortly before landing. American said the fasten seat belt sign was on at the time.

Ehmke’s wife, Jessica Huseman, a ProPublica reporter on the flight, tweeted that a flight attendant had dislocated his shoulder during the incident.

“No warning at all. Plane lurched thru the air. Honestly, terrifying,” she said in a separate tweet. “Some passengers are injured as well.”

In the row behind him, Ehmke said, a man had flown up from his seat, hit the ceiling and landed on his father – hard.

The man was one of three passengers who would be sent to hospital after the plane landed.

All the flight attendants disappeared from the main cabin after the jolt, Ehmke said. He and the other passengers took stock of their soaked clothes and the trash-strewn plane and tried to laugh off the fright.

After a few minutes, one of the crew members reappeared, Ehmke recalled, and told the passengers, “I’m the only flight attendant that is able to help everyone right now.”

The others, he gathered, needed help themselves.

Ehmke would later see the attendant who had served him throughout the flight with a sling on her arm and two passengers with ice packs on their heads.

The plane safely landed at Philadelphia International Airport at 3.12pm Saturday, ahead of the scheduled time of 3.45pm, according to the airline’s website.

Photos taken inside the cabin showed wine and coffee dripping from the ceiling and the aisles covered in debris.

“We are taking care of our passengers and our crew members at this time and want to thank our team members for keeping our passengers safe,” American said in a statement.

Turbulence typically injures dozens of people annually, according to the Federal Aviation Administration statistics.

The FAA said turbulence caused 44 injuries in 2016 – more than double the 21 reported in 2015. During the past 15 years, the lowest total was 12 injuries in 2006, and the highest was 107 in 2009, according to the FAA.

“Aeroplanes have seat belts for a reason. Turbulence is a serious threat in the air and it cannot always be predicted,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in April. “It is one of the highest causes of serious on the job injury to flight attendants.

“The forces created in sudden clear air turbulence can throw bodies and unsecure items forcefully through the cabin much like the impact of a high speed collision,” she said. “If you are not strapped in and secure, it could be deadly.”

Additional reporting by Washington Post