Home News 4 People Injured as ‘Severe Turbulence’ Rocks Flight to Florida

4 People Injured as ‘Severe Turbulence’ Rocks Flight to Florida

4 People Injured as ‘Severe Turbulence’ Rocks Flight to Florida

It is a circumstance that many air travelers have feared: an airplane jolting so intensely that it sends coffee cups flying and passengers hanging in midair.

That dreaded moment materialized for more than a hundred travelers on Wednesday when their plane from North Carolina to Florida was rocked by “severe turbulence,” injuring four people, the flight operator, Allegiant Air, said.

The plane, Flight 227, was transporting 179 passengers and six crew members, and airport paramedics met it when it landed at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in Pinellas County, Fla. Two passengers and two flight attendants were transported to a hospital for further evaluation, though the airline did not specify which hospital or elaborate on their conditions.

Six other passengers were examined by medical personnel and released on site, the airline said. The plane was traveling from Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina and landed in Florida around 3:45 p.m. local time, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The juddering occurred near the last leg of the flight, when the crew was conducting its final walk-throughs, said Elizabeth Spriggs, a passenger who sat near the back with her son. The first shock dropped a passing flight attendant to the ground. Then came the second, a steep plunge that flung laptops and “catapulted” the felled flight attendant into the air, she said.

“It was like watching ‘The Matrix,’” Ms. Spriggs, 57, said. “We watched her go up in the air and float probably for a second.”

Turbulence, which refers to unstable air movement, is caused by shifting winds, including jet streams, thunderstorms, and fronts of cold or warm weather. The effects on a plane can range from minor hiccups to severe drops in altitude. The Federal Aviation Administration, or F.A.A., recommends that passengers buckle their seatbelts “at all times” to avoid injury.

Some experts have attributed a recent uptick in turbulence-related injuries to climate change. Rising carbon dioxide emissions can affect air currents, which in turn can raise the chance of more unpredictable or intense turbulence. Though the aggregate numbers of such incidents remain small, the Federal Aviation Administration said a total of 17 people sustained serious injuries last year because of rough air, the highest in over a decade.

In March, seven passengers were sent to the hospital after a Lufthansa flight encountered severe turbulence en route from Texas to Frankfurt. Roughly three dozen were injured by turbulence in December, on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Phoenix to Honolulu.

Allegiant said it would investigate the Florida flight turbulence in coordination with federal officials at the F.A.A. and the National Transportation Safety Board, adding that the airline would “provide more information as soon as it becomes available.”

Paul Harris, another passenger, told WFLA News Channel 8, a Tampa news station, that the plane had dropped “considerably.” “Several people” hit the ceiling of the plane, he added, including a woman in his row.

According to FlightAware, a flight-data tracker, the one-hour Allegiant flight set off from Asheville, N.C., at 2:14 p.m. Nearly an hour later, roughly 20 minutes before landing, it plunged more than 8,000 feet in two minutes.

“We’ve experienced turbulence before on different trips, but that was terrifying,” Ms. Spriggs said.


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