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7 Injured As Plane Hits Turbulence

May 22, 1998

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A Continental Airlines DC-10 hit turbulence over the Pacific Ocean, injuring seven passengers and forcing the Hawaii-bound jet to return to Los Angeles International Airport, authorities said.

Four passengers and three flight attendants were injured Thursday, Continental spokesman Ned Walker said from Houston. There were 283 people aboard.

The seriously injured included a man and woman with fractures and a man with back and neck pain, city fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said. The other injured were two women and two men with various pains. All were taken to area hospitals.

Passengers screamed and people who weren’t wearing their seat belts hit the cabin roof when the aircraft dipped and then plunged sharply, witnesses said.

``The plane just immediately fell,″ said Adam Paul, 25, of Provo, Utah. ``It felt like we’d fallen three to four stories. People were glued to the ceiling _ and then they just dropped.″

The first dip was like a roller coaster ride, said passenger Ed Shaw, a radio talk show host from south Florida. ``The second time, it was like, oh, my God, we’re going down.″

Flight 75 was 150 miles out from Los Angeles en route to Honolulu when it encountered moderate to severe turbulence about 1:15 p.m. PDT, said Mitch Barker, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle.

The jet, carrying 270 passengers and a crew of 13, was climbing through 31,000 feet when the incident occurred, Walker said, and the ``fasten seatbelt″ sign was on.

``We are going to investigate the incident with federal authorities including the possibility of clear-air turbulence,″ Walker said.

Charles Banks, 65, of Beaumont, Texas, said he landed hard on his back.

``We were up about an hour, I guess, over the Pacific and I was in the bathroom, standing up when we hit one of those air pockets,″ he said, eyes glistening and voice shaking as he gripped a gurney at Daniel Freeman Medical Center. ``The first thing I knew, I had hit the ceiling and came crashing down.″

``I think the flight attendants probably got the brunt of it,″ said Dr. Brigeli Westerband, who treated two flight attendants at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital. One was a woman with a fractured jaw and ankle, and face cuts. The other was a man with a broken leg.

Both were serving drinks at the time, the doctor said.

A 26-year-old man with a broken leg and jaw, and a 37-year-old man with a broken leg were treated at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey, officials said.

A 45-year-old woman with a broken leg and back pain and a 41-year-old man with neck and back pain were taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood.

The remaining three were rushed to Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood: a 33-year-old woman with neck and back pain, a 65-year-old man with back pain and a 25-year-old man with an injured knee, officials said.

Turbulence is unstable air that can make an airliner bump, rise and fall. Storm clouds and mountain ranges can cause it, but there also are invisible, unpredictable areas of unstable air known as clear-air turbulence.

Continental crews routinely request that passengers wear their seat belts at all times when seated, the airline spokesman said. He did not know if there had been any reports of turbulence from other flight crews, the means by which most turbulence reports are passed on.

FAA figures show that between 1981 and November 1996, two passengers were killed and 63 seriously injured in 252 incidents of turbulence reported by major U.S. air carriers operating worldwide.

In December, a United jet flying from Tokyo to Honolulu hit turbulence that killed one passenger and injured 83 others.

In April, a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 heading from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hit turbulence that caused four minor injuries. The same month 20 people were injured when a Tower Air Boeing 747 on a flight from Paris to New York struck turbulence over the Atlantic.

In March, hoping to prevent turbulence-related injuries, American Airlines and United Airlines announced they would require passengers to stay buckled up when they are seated.

In a second incident Thursday at Los Angeles International, an Asiana Boeing 747 returned after the pilot reported a vibration and shut down one of the airliner’s four engines, said airport spokeswoman Cora Fossett. The jet landed safely.

Update hourly