Injured Passengers From Chinese Airliner Evacuated To Anchorage
SHEMYA AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AP) _ The military airlifted about 150 injured passengers to Anchorage after a Los Angeles-bound Chinese airliner made a forced landing at this remote base after hitting turbulence Tuesday.
Air Force officials said one passenger died and several were critically injured when the Chinese Eastern Airlines jet ran into severe turbulence at about 3:15 a.m.
The flight, with 265 passengers aboard - almost all of them Chinese - originated in Shanghai, China. Its crew made a distress call requesting permission to land at the base on the western tip of the Aleutian island chain, the Air Force said.
Those most badly injured were flown by military transport to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, 1,500 miles away.
Twenty-seven of them arrived in Anchorage shortly after noon and were taken to the city’s four hospitals. Another 125 were expected on four more flights Tuesday, the Air Force said.
″They probably didn’t have their seat belts on, and I think people were probably walking around, because they slammed into things and luggage fell on them,″ said Theodore Mala, Alaska’s commissioner of health who saw the first plane load of injured passengers arrive in Anchorage.
Alaska Airlines was sending an airliner to Sheyma to fly the estimated 100 uninjured passengers to Los Angeles International Airport, Col. David Storey said from Shemya.
Shemya AFB’s sole doctor, Capt. Laura Towne, treated the injured passengers before they were evacuated to Anchorage, a five-hour flight.
A spokeswoman at Providence Hospital said three of the injured there were in critical condition with abdominal and head injuries.
The dead passenger was described as a middle-aged man, but the cause of death hadn’t been determined, the Air Force said.
Two airmen from Elmendorf AFB flew to Shemya to act as interpreters for the Chinese-speaking passengers.
It wasn’t immediately known how many crew members were aboard or whether any were injured.
The Shemya runway, about 10,000 feet long, was chosen over nearby Adak Naval Air Station because it is longer and had more favorable weather conditions, Storey said.
Federal investigators also arrived and were examining the wide-bodied jet, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11.
Shemya AFB, built in 1942, serves as a base for reconnaissance aircraft and for space surveillance.