11 People Seriously Injured After Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 Hits Turbulence

More than a dozen people were injured, including three crew members, after an inbound flight to Hawaii encountered “severe turbulence” on Sunday, authorities said.

The rough air currents hit Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 from Phoenix, Arizona about half an hour outside Honolulu, with the plane landing safely around 10:50 a.m., having declared an emergency and been given priority descent.

“Sometimes, these air pockets occur with no warning. It’s rare to have that level of extreme turbulence. It was a very extreme case of mid-air turbulence,” Jon Snook, Hawaiian Air executive vice president and chief operating officer, said at a news conference.

On the ground, a total of 36 people required medical attention, several of them for “nausea and very, very minor injuries,” Snook said.

Following a medical triage, 20 people were hospitalized, 11 with serious injuries, though no one was in critical condition, he added. Some of the injuries included cuts, bruises and loss of consciousness.

“It could have been worse, certainly, and we’re all very grateful for that,” he said.

The three injured crew members, all of whom were hospitalized, had been “up and about” in the cabin at the time of the incident, according to the spokesperson.

Kaylee Reyes, a passenger, told Hawaii News Now that her mother had just sat down and did not have a chance to buckle her seatbelt when the turbulence abruptly hit. “She flew up and hit the ceiling,” Reyes said.

Another passenger, Jazmin Bitanga, said they’d experienced two “intense” altitude drops. “I turned around and there was a couple of people bleeding and just bracing themselves,” she told the outlet. “Just all around me there were people crying.”

The airline spokesperson said that the seatbelt sign had been on at the time the plane hit the air pocket. He promised an investigation would be launched into the incident, in partnership with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The flight landed amid a powerful cold front that has swept over the state.

A meterologist with the National Weather Service (NSW) in Honolulu told the Associated Press that thunderstorms had been sighted in areas including the plane’s flight path, though the spokesperson clarified at the news conference that the aircraft was above the storms at the time of the incident.

The NWS tweeted that a strong cold front is passing through and impacting Hawaii today and Monday with a variety of weather conditions, including damaging winds, potential severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding.

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