Two dozen people were hospitalized and treated for injuries on Thursday evening following a turbulent Jetblue flight from Boston to Sacramento. The issues forced Flight 429 to make an emergency landing in Rapid City, South Dakota where the 22 injured passengers and two crew members sought medical attention for the aviation accident.
By all accounts, this wasn’t the standard one-bump turbulence most flyers experience at some point during their travels. “All of a sudden, the plane just dropped,” Christopher De Vries, a Sacramento software developer told reporters. “It dropped fast enough so that things just flew up in the air. I just saw laptops, candy, and soda splashing onto the ceiling.”
Other passengers remembered seeing people floating in the air and compared the experience to being on an elevator that suddenly dropped 50 stories.
The Federal Aviation Administration is undergoing an investigation into the incident, both looking at the flight log and interviewing passengers and crew members in hopes of determining “exactly what happen”. However, this investigation is not expected to be completed for several more weeks.
Some experts believe the extreme weather of the night is to blame; stating that thunderstorms throughout the flight route over South Dakota created a difficult situation for pilots who had to account for rapidly changing wind speeds and directions.
The FAA has acknowledged that injuries from turbulence are not uncommon. Turbulence is, in fact, the primary cause of injuries in nonfatal aviation accidents for both flight attendants and passengers. According to aviation accident records kept by the FAA, from 1980 to 2008 was a total of 234 turbulence accidents that resulted in 298 serious injuries and 3 fatalities.
Officials are also quick to note that in at least two of those deaths involving passengers, those passengers did not have their seat belts fastened despite the seat belt sign being turned on. The FAA stresses that the best way to stay while flying is to correctly wear the seat belts whenever sitting.
However, while a seat belt might prevent a fatality, it still did not prevent many of those passengers on Flight 429 from receiving their injuries. JetBlue officials have attempted to remedy the situation by both quickly sending a replacement aircraft to carry the rest of the passengers to their desired destination and to offer a service credit either equal to the amount of their round-trip fare or $200, whichever is greater.