‘We Felt We Were Dying’

December 31, 2015

It was clear sailing for Air Canada flight AC088 to Toronto from Shanghai, until turbulence began over Alaska. Within moments, shaking became violent and Connie Gelber watched some of her fellow passengers get tossed about the cabin of the Boeing 777.

 

In the next few minutes, nearly two dozen people, including three children, were hurt badly enough to be sent to hospital in Calgary, where the plane was diverted.

 

“It was nobody’s fault. Not the pilot’s. Everybody did the best they could,” Ms. Gelber said at the Calgary airport. “But honestly we felt we were dying. Like you see in the movies, where they all go up to the ceiling – everything went up to the ceiling that wasn’t anchored.”

 

“The girl beside me was thrown clear out of her seat, down the aisle. It was the worst I’ve ever been on,” Ms. Gelber said before rushing to catch a connection to get to her eventual destination in Montreal.

 

At the tail end of the flight from Shanghai, the pilot came on the intercom and warned they were entering an area of turbulence.

 

But no one was prepared for the jolt that sent the Boeing 777 into sudden descent.

After the unusually severe turbulence, the plane, carrying 332 passengers and 19 crew members, landed safely in Calgary at 3:22 MT, Air Canada said. Officials did not give a cause for the turbulence, a normal occurrence on flights in mild form, but in rare instances it can be intense and dangerous, especially for passengers not belted into their seats.

 

Calgary paramedics boarded the aircraft and assessed 25 passengers. Of those, 21 were rushed to area hospitals by ambulance, including seven who received potentially serious neck and back injuries, said Stuart Brideaux, spokesman for Calgary EMS.

 

Originally reported on theglobeandmail.com

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