‘Terrifying’: Air passenger recounts crashing into ceiling

Dec 19, 2022, 5:55 AM | Updated: 4:10 pm

This mobile photo courtesy of passenger Jazmin Bitanga shows the interior of a Hawaiian Airlines plane on its flight from Phoenix to Honolulu, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, after severe turbulence rocked the flight. (Courtesy of Jazmin Bitanga via AP)

(Courtesy of Jazmin Bitanga via AP)

HONOLULU (AP) — Tiffany Reyes had just gotten back to her seat from the bathroom and was about to buckle her safety belt when Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 dipped.

In an instant, Reyes found herself on the aisle floor, staring up at caved-in ceiling panels and a cracked bathroom sign that was hanging.

“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, 40, was among 20 people on the flight — passengers and crew — taken to hospitals after turbulence struck their plane flying from Phoenix to Honolulu without warning Sunday.

Eleven people were in serious condition. In all, 36 people received medical treatment for bumps, bruises, cuts and nausea, said Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services.

Reyes was heading home after picking up her daughter Kaylee from college. She initially thought something had hit the plane and that it was crashing. She briefly thought they were going to die because she had never encountered anything so violent on a flight before.

“That’s the most terrifying experience I’ve been through in my whole 40 years of life,” Reyes said.

Reyes wasn’t bleeding. And the adrenaline surging through her dulled the pain that would eventually come. She crawled back into her seat. And her daughter, who was buckled up and escaped injury, “just held me the whole time.”

Others had it much worse, Reyes said. She saw a woman walk off the plane with gashes in her head and blood on her face and clothes.

An ambulance took Reyes to an emergency room where she received X-rays, had her blood taken and various other screenings. After five hours there, she and her family – her daughter, son and husband – went home to decompress.

She had a headache which began to fade Sunday night. But the left side of her body 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 said Monday it is investigating the incident.

The full flight had nearly 300 people aboard and carried many passengers traveling to Hawaii for the holidays, like Jacie Hayata Ano, who was heading home.

“It was just rocky,” she told KHON-TV. “And then, it quickly just escalated to the point where we’re shaking so much that we were pretty much like floating off of our chairs.”

Hawaiian Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jon Snook said such turbulence is isolated and unusual, noting the airline had not experienced anything like it in recent history. Three flight attendants were among the injured, he said.

Jazmin Bitanga, who was also traveling home for the holidays, said there were two drops in altitude, including one that was so strong it sent her boyfriend’s water bottle into the plane’s ceiling.

“Just all around me, there were people crying,” she told Hawaii News Now.

There was some internal damage to the aircraft during the turbulence, Snook said. The fasten-seat belts sign was on at the time, though some of those injured were not wearing them, he said.

The airline was aware of the forecast for thunderstorms and unstable air and weather conditions, but had no warning that the particular patch of air where the turbulence occurred “was in any way dangerous,” Snook said.

He did not know how much altitude the plane lost during the turbulence, saying that would be part of an investigation involving the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane’s flight data recorder would provide those details, he said.

The investigation would also address precisely what the passengers and crew were doing at the time, he said.

The Airbus A330-200 began its descent immediately after the turbulence, Snook said. The crew declared an emergency because of the number of injuries on board and air traffic controllers gave the flight priority to land.

The aircraft will undergo a thorough inspection and maintenance, mostly to fix components in the cabin, Snook said.

Snook said he could only speculate whether some passengers hit their heads, but that was likely based on the injuries and the damage to cabin paneling.

“If you don’t have your seat belt on, you stay where you are as the aircraft goes down, and that’s how those injuries occur,” Snook said.

The investigation will examine what other measures were taken, aside from turning on the fasten seat belt sign, to ensure passengers were buckled in, he said.

A high wind warning and flood watch were in effect Monday for Hawaii as a strong front moves across the islands, according to the National Weather Service.

On Monday, severe turbulence hit a United Airlines flight traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Houston. The airline said two passengers and three crew members suffered “minor injuries” and were taken to a hospital shortly after the flight landed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. The airline did not describe the nature of the injuries.

In 2019, 37 passengers and flight crew members were injured when an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Sydney hit intense turbulence about two hours past Hawaii. The Boeing 777-200 was diverted to Honolulu, where the injured received treatment. Thirty people were taken to hospitals and nine had serious injuries.

Over the Atlantic, a 2017 American Airlines flight from Athens hit severe turbulence along the New York coastline. Seven crew members and three passengers were injured.

Most people associate turbulence with heavy storms. But the most dangerous type is so-called clear-air turbulence. The wind-shear phenomenon can occur in wispy cirrus clouds or even clear air near thunderstorms, as differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

Planes can sail into clear-air turbulence without warning.

___

Finely reported from Norfolk, Virginia. Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, and Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

UK holds ceremony replete with tradition to consider coins

LONDON (AP) — A jury sat solemnly in a gilded hall in central London on Tuesday, presided over by a bewigged representative of the crown in flowing black robes, but there were no criminals in the dock. Britain’s coinage was on trial. In a ceremony that dates back to the 12th century, the jury filed […]
11 hours ago
In this photo supplied by the Mozambican Presidency, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, left, shake...
Associated Press

Mozambique’s extremist rebels kill aid worker in north

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — Extremist rebels in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province have killed a worker for the international charity Doctors Without Borders, shortly after a former vice president of the organization was asked to produce a report into the humanitarian situation in the conflict-hit region. Mozambique’s Islamic extremist insurgency, which started in October 2017, […]
11 hours ago
A baby girl who was born under the rubble caused by an earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey receive...
Associated Press

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town

JINDERIS, Syria (AP) — Residents in a northwest Syrian town discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble of a five-story apartment building leveled by this week’s devastating earthquake, relatives and a doctor said Tuesday. The newborn girl was found buried under the debris with […]
11 hours ago
This cover image released by W.W. Norton shows "A Hacker's Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society's Ru...
Associated Press

Review: Digital tech advances, AI spur hacking of society

“A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend Them Back” by Bruce Schneier (W.W. Norton & Company) Hacking is universally understood as the exploitation of a software vulnerability by a malicious actor. But hacking encompasses oh, so much more. By gaming systems, it achieves outcomes for which they were not […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Tickets for Beyoncé’s 1st concert of world tour sell out

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Tickets for the first concert of Beyoncé’s upcoming “Renaissance” world tour sold out Tuesday, and concert management group Live Nation said a second concert in Stockholm was added because of the high demand. The tour starts in Sweden in May and is scheduled to include stops in London, Paris, Barcelona, Toronto and […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Leipzig defender Willi Orbán readies for stem-cell donation

LEIPZIG, Germany (AP) — Leipzig defender Willi Orbán could miss a key game in his team’s Bundesliga title challenge because he is taking time out to make a potentially life-saving donation of stem cells to a cancer patient. Leipzig said Tuesday that the Hungary international has been on the German donor registry since 2017 and […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
‘Terrifying’: Air passenger recounts crashing into ceiling