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14 Injured In Mid-Air Turbulence

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CBS
Heavy turbulence forced a plane to make an emergency landing in South Carolina, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals.

Officials say the Pan American Airways flight was on its way to Pittsburgh from Sanford, Florida, Friday night when it hit turbulence and dropped at least one thousand feet. The plane landed in Charleston.

An unidentified man who was on the plane told CBS News that the sudden loss in altitude left him with a very strange feeling - "weightless for a few seconds, like a roller coaster when it drops" - as passengers and objects flew around the cabin.

"Everything was flying everywhere and people were flying," said one unidentified woman getting off the plane in Charleston, who told of watching another passenger get thrown from her seat to land on top of the people across the aisle. "She flipped, and went over and she's cut behind her ear."

Pan American president Dave Fink says people were "really buffeted around," so the best thing to do was go to the nearest airport.

Fink says it doesn't appear that any of the 14 people taken to hospitals were seriously injured. The Charleston Post and Courier reports a flight attendant was knocked unconscious during the turbulence.

Fink says there were no problems with the plane, but another plane was sent to pick up the passengers and continue the flight.

All but two of the passengers who were taken to hospitals were treated and released. The flight attendant who lost consciousness is one of two who remained hospitalized Saturday. No details were released about the second patient.

The airline says there was no problem with the aircraft itself, a Boeing 727, whose Charleston landing at 6 p.m. Friday was unscheduled but otherwise normal.

Fink said Friday night that another plane was sent to Charleston to take the people to Pittsburgh and eventually to Portsmouth, their original destination. Fink said he would be on the flight to Pittsburgh "to see what we can do to help the people."

An airline spokesman, John Nadolny, told CBS News that a Pan Am mechanic who just happened to be on the flight inspected the aircraft and "found it to be airworthy." Nadolny also said the flight had been directed away from any rough weather and was "in clear air."

Pan American, which began flying in 1927 and once was one of the world's largest air carriers, ceased operations in 1991. A new service began operating late last year out of Pease International Tradeport in New Hampshire.

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