HONOLULU (AP) – The intense turbulence hit an Air Canada flight to Australia on Thursday and sent untied passengers flying towards the roof, forcing the plane to land in Hawaii.
The flight from Vancouver to Sydney found "sudden and unforeseen turbulence," about two hours after Hawaii when the plane was diverted to Honolulu, Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in a statement.
"The plane just fell," Stephanie Beam, a passenger at The Associated Press, told The Associated Press. "When we got to the turbulence, I woke up and looked to make sure my children were fastened in. The next thing I knew, there are literally bodies on the roof of the plane."
A woman behind her hit the roof so hard it broke the shell of an oxygen mask, said Beam, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Of the 37 passengers and injured flight crew members, nine suffered serious injuries, emergency services said. Thirty people were taken to hospitals.
The Chief of Emergency Medical Services of Honolulu, Dean Nakano, said the wounded were aged between children and the elderly. Customs officers and emergency personnel met with passengers at the door of the Honolulu airport to make sure they could get medical attention quickly.
The spokeswoman for the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, Shayne Enright, said the injuries included cuts, bumps, bruises, neck pain and back pain. More than two dozen people were taken to hospitals, he said.
Llyn Williams was traveling with his wife Erica Daly to his home in Sydney, Australia. His wife was injured and taken to the hospital.
He said when they hit the violent turbulence: "All those who were not sitting and tied hit the roof, almost everyone in our cabin."
Williams described the cabin as scary, with plastic around and oxygen masks hanging. "A lot of blood everywhere," he said. "It was really quite scary."
Andrew Szucs, originally from Ontario but now living in Sydney, was not injured.
There had been turbulence before the sudden fall and he was awake, getting ready.
"Then, suddenly, the plane went down and went sideways," Szucs said. "And that's when the people who were tied flew, hit the roof."
He said the pilot came to the radio and said they did not see the turbulence on the radar and that "there was no warning that this kind of air fall was going to happen."
The babies and children cried while the crew members passed by the cabin assessing the injuries. Approximately 15 minutes later, there was an announcement asking for help from passengers who are medical professionals, said Beam.
Sandy Marshall, from Sydney, was injured, with her two children unharmed.
"I was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, my son was sleeping on me and I went directly to the roof," he said.
Most of the impact was on his head, but he also suffered a laceration under his right eye, bruises and muscle pain in his neck.
The turbulence occurred at 36,000 feet (10,973 meters) about 600 miles (966 kilometers) southwest of Honolulu, said spokesman for the United States Federal Aviation Administration, Ian Gregor.
The Boeing 777-200 carried 269 passengers and 15 crew members, according to Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.
Air Canada was organizing accommodation in hotels and meals in Honolulu and options to resume the flight.
"If we're going to be stuck somewhere, I can think of worse places," Beam said, traveling with her 10 and 11-year-old children.