CALGARY — Emergency crews transported 21 injured passengers to hospital Wednesday after a flight bound for Toronto from Shanghai was diverted to Calgary International Airport.
Air Canada Flight AC88 made an unscheduled landing in Calgary at about 3:30 p.m. local time. According to passengers, severe turbulence struck the plane when it was over Alaska.
EMS and airport officials said emergency responders assessed 25 passengers. Among the 21 patients taken to hospital were three children. None of the injuries are life-threatening.
Passenger Connie Gelber described the journey as a “flight from hell.”
“It was frightening,” she said. “Honestly we didn’t know if we were going to live or die.”
Gelber said the girl beside her was thrown “right out of her seat down the aisle” when the turbulence hit.
It appeared the most seriously injured had ignored the pilot’s warning and had not buckled up, Gelber said.
“They did not have their seatbelts on, and that’s a lesson to be learned to all of you,” she said. “Put your seatbelts on, even when it’s sunshine.”
Liu Pinzhou was sleeping when the turbulence abruptly woke him up.
“Some guys just flew,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Esther Du said it was a frightening experience.
“The first time was just a little shake, and then suddenly we go up quickly and we just fall down,” she said. “Luckily, I had my seatbelt fastened but the boy beside me didn’t.”
She said he flew up and hit the bulkhead above him.
She admitted to wondering, “are we going to be OK? Are we going to be alive?” and said even though she wasn’t hurt, she was nervous about getting onto the next flight that would take her to her destination.
Helen Zhang snapped photos of the chaos inside the plane and said there was lots of crying.
Gord Murray travels often for work and said the crew were exceedingly professional in the face of the turbulence.
“It was a little scary. All the crew were very professional, handled themselves really well. Everyone stayed calm. A few people had a couple of minor injuries and were a little bit shaken up but we made it back safe and sound. It could have been much worse.” he said.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said it has sent two investigators to the Calgary airport to find out what led to the injuries. The investigators will request the aircraft’s black box and will interview Air Canada employees.
“They will see if they can gather enough evidence to understand what happened,” said Julie Leroux, spokeswoman with the oversight agency.
According to Air Canada, a preliminary passenger list indicates the plane was carrying 332 passengers and 19 crew members.
Many passengers were put on a new flight to Toronto leaving the airport Wednesday evening.
Calgary Herald, with files from Reid Southwick and The Canadian Press
Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Network Stuart Dryden/Postmedia Network