- Houston to Heathrow flight was forced to land at Shannon Airport
- 23 hurt and 12 people including three children taken to Limerick hospital
- Victims on board suffered lacerations, bruising and minor head injuries
- Texan cheerleader Nikki Hartin Boriack, 38, said passengers went flying
- Passenger Leslie Chi told friends on Facebook: ‘I really thought I might die’
- Were you on the flight? Send your experiences, pictures and video to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terrified passengers on a UK-bound transatlantic flight have described how they thought they would die as the plane suddenly ‘dropped’ up to 4,000ft.
The United Airlines Boeing 767-300 flying from Houston to Heathrow was diverted to Shannon Airport after 23 people were hurt by severe turbulence 300 miles south-west of Ireland.
The plane landed in Ireland at 4.55am and 12 people including three children and two crew were taken to University Hospital in Limerick. More were treated in the airport terminal.
Texan cheerleading coach Nikki Hartin Boriack, 38, said the plane plunged twice and passengers including children were sent ‘flying’ through the cabin followed by a bang some thought was the engine ‘blowing up’.
She said: ‘Out of the blue the plane just dropped and everybody who was unbuckled went flying. Everybody hit their heads on the roof, the girl next to me was thrown from her seat.
Stricken: The United Airlines plane on the ground at Shannon today after 16 people suffered injuries after it hit turbulence on the way to Heathrow from Houston
Emergency responders treat passengers at Ireland’s Shannon Airport after the drama
Drama: Texan Nikki Hartin Boriack, 38, said the plane plunged twice and passengers including children were sent ‘flying’ – Nottingham student Leslie Chi (pictured) said she ‘really thought I might die’
Reaction: This Twitter user said the plane dropped up to 4,000ft when the turbulence hit
‘Each drop lasted a couple of seconds. There was a loud bang. That was when everybody got really scared.
‘The worst part was during the second drop. It felt like a rollercoaster. The drops were that long. Everyone was screaming and crying’.
However, another passenger said there were four drops in altitude.
Gregory Giagnocavo, who was on board travelling to Heathrow, told BBC Radio 4’s PM there was no warning.
‘This was capital T Turbulence,’ he said.
‘There were four dramatic drops in altitude. The plane just fell what felt like 1000 feet. A split second it did that again, again, again, four times.It was terrifying.’
Mr Giagnocavo earlier tweeted a photo of a stretcher at the airport after landing.
‘Severe turbulence mid-flight, injured passengers. Emergency landing Ireland. Pure chaos,’ he said.
He had earlier praised the airline in another tweet about his comfy seat for the nine-hour flight.
‘Best seat on the plane or what? 9 hours comfort to Heathrow. Thanks, United upgrades,’ he said.
Js_anghera tweeted: ‘My United Airlines flight from Houston to Heathrow has just plunged 4,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean’.
The victims are said to have suffered lacerations, bruising and minor head injuries. A member of the crew is believed to have a fractured wrist.
Nottingham student Leslie Chi told friends on Facebook that she ‘really thought I might die’ as the plane dropped.
Conor Brady told MailOnline most people were asleep when the plane when the turbulence struck.
He said: ‘All I remember is feeling my seat fall from beneath me and my back hitting the cabin roof, as I fell I managed to use my hands to block the blow of the chair in front.
Solid ground: Terrified and exhausted passengers, including several children, after they landed in Shannon this morning (pictured)
‘A lot of people were asleep and they probably had no idea what was going on until they were falling back down, afterwards a few people screamed but everyone around me quickly got back into their seats and put their belts on, holding onto their arm rests really tight.
‘My friend was in sheer panic and I was in complete shock, all the time this was happening it still felt like the plane was falling and shaking’.
Some of the injured passengers may not have had their seat belts on and were tossed around as the turbulence shook the plane.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it would be investigating the incident.
Some 223 passengers and 12 crew were on board and they were met by ambulance crews and paramedics.
United Airlines said in a statement: ‘United Airlines is providing care and support to customers and crew of flight UA-880 which experienced severe and unexpected turbulence during a flight from Houston to London Heathrow today.
‘The aircraft diverted to Shannon Airport in Ireland where it was met by medical personnel.
‘We wish these passengers and crew a quick recovery from their injuries’.
The 207 passengers on the flight would continue their journey to London later today on an alternative aircraft, United Airlines said.
Drama: The United Airlines flight from Houston to Heathrow was forced to land at Shannon Airport this morning (pictured)
Witness: Nottingham student Leslie Chi told friends on Facebook that she ‘really though I might die’ as the plane was rocked by the violent burst of turbulence.
University Hospital Limerick said it was prepared for an emergency after a call from the plane.
A spokesman said: ‘Staff at UHL were notified at approximately 5.30am of an incident aboard a transatlantic flight and that a medical diversion was being made to Shannon Airport with a possible 23 casualties.’
‘The Clinical Decision Unit and paediatric area within the ED (Emergency Department) were cleared in anticipation of patients being brought from the airport.’
‘When the aircraft landed, initial assessment was carried out by the National Ambulance Service and airport first responders. A total of 12 people were transported to hospital, nine adults and three children. Two of the 12 were crew members.’
The flight left Houston, Texas on Tuesday night and was due to land in London Heathrow shortly after 6am.
However, about 500km out from Shannon, the pilot alerted air traffic control that he was diverting to the Co Clare airport.
Three of the injured passengers included a female toddler and an older boy and girl.
A source said the majority of the injuries sustained were to passengers heads and ribs. A member of the crew may have a fractured wrist.
Most of the injured passengers are from the UK and had been traveling home from holidays.
There are unconfirmed reports that some of the injured passengers may not have had their seat belts fastened at the time of the incident.
‘They reckon they didn’t have their seat belts on at the time and they hit an air pocket and (the plane) just dropped,’ said a source.
‘It was very frightening for them. They were shocked,’ the source added.
Drama: The plane from Houston was following its usual route across the Atlantic but appears to have hit unexpectedly violent turbulence off the coast of Ireland
Care: Around 11 people were treated in the terminal at Shannon Airport (pictured) – 12 went to hospital
It’s unclear if the injured passengers were thrown from their seats or if they were struck by debris during the severe turbulence.
United Airlines has been asked for further comment.
Turbulence is caused when moving air masses or pockets come together traveling at different speeds.
‘Turbulence cannot be detected by pilots on passenger planes. The pilots are depending on other flights to alert air traffic control of any reports of turbulence so they can try and prepare for it,’ said another source.
‘You can’t see turbulence nor can you predict where it’s going to hit. That’s why there is a gap between planes taking off and landing at airports, so they don’t get caught in each other’s (turbulence),’ they added.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online