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36 injured, 11 seriously, after Hawaiian Airlines flight experiences "severe turbulence," officials say

Severe turbulence injures 36 on flight to Hawaii
Severe turbulence injures 36 on flight to Hawaii 01:55

A flight from Phoenix to Honolulu left 36 people hurt, with 11 suffering serious injuries, after the plane experienced "severe turbulence," officials said Sunday.

A total of 20 people aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 were taken to two local hospitals, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services confirmed. Nine of those 20 sustained minor injuries with 11 suffering serious injuries, according to EMS. 

One person was knocked unconscious, Honolulu Emergency Services Department Director Jim Ireland said at a press conference. About 10 passengers experienced nausea and vomiting, Ireland said. Of the 20 people hospitalized, 17 were passengers and three were crew members, according to the airline. The plane was carrying 278 passengers and 10 crew members — 2 pilots and 8 flight attendants. 

Passenger Tiffany Reyes shared her harrowing experience on the flight, telling The Associated Press that she had just gotten back to her seat from the bathroom and was about to buckle her safety belt when the plane dipped and she found herself on the aisle floor.

"I asked everyone around me, 'Was that me?" Reyes said. "They said I had apparently flown into the ceiling and slammed into the ground."

Reyes was able to crawl back into her seat and reunite with her daughter, who was buckled up and escaped injury. 

"That's the most terrifying experience I've been through in my whole 40 years of life," Reyes told AP. 

After the flight landed safely, Reyes was taken to an emergency room where she received X-rays, had her blood taken and underwent various other screenings, AP reported. 

She spent five hours at the hospital before returning home. A headache she had been suffering faded by Sunday night, she said, but the left side of her body then started to ache.

"I can't even move around in bed," Reyes said Monday. "So I have to sleep right on my back without even moving."

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed on Monday that it was investigating the incident. 

"NTSB is investigating the Dec. 18 air turbulence incident on the Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu which resulted in serious injuries," the agency said in a tweet

The flight landed safely at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport at 10:50 a.m. and medical care was provided at the scene for passengers and crew members who suffered less serious injuries, the airline said.

"We are supporting all affected passengers & employees and are continuing to monitor the situation," Hawaiian Airlines said in a tweet.

The cause of the turbulence has not been confirmed, although there were reports of thunderstorms in the area. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident. 

There have been several instances this year of turbulence on a commercial flight causing injuries.

In July, eight people were hospitalized after an American Airlines flight from Tampa, Florida, to Nashville, Tennessee, experienced severe "unexpected turbulence" and was forced to land in Alabama, a spokesperson for Birmingham's airport told CBS News. 

The incident came weeks after three Southwest Airlines flight attendants and one passenger on a flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City suffered minor injuries after their flight experienced "moderate turbulence."

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