The injuries caused by sudden turbulence on Air Canada flight AC 33 between Vancouver and Sydney shows that aviation accidents are not always about crashes. Turbulence is a common phenomenon on long haul flights and airline staff are expected to give as much warning as possible to passengers and crew about the dangers involved if not securely strapped in by a seat belt. Any passenger or crew member who is not advised to fasten their seat belts when turbulence is imminent may be suddenly thrown upwards or out of their seats. This was demonstrated vividly on the Air Canada flight yesterday, when at least 37 people received injuries, some of them serious.

The Air Canada accident happened on a routine flight from Toronto to Sydney via Vancouver. The plane was about 500 miles south west of Hawaii when sudden and violent turbulence was experienced. The incident happened at night and it appears that many, perhaps half of the passengers, were not wearing their seat belts at the time. At least two flight attendants were also caught out, as some of them on duty that evening were serving snacks and drinks.

Most of the injuries were caused when passengers and crew were suddenly hurled upwards, as the first sharp movement of the plane was downwards in the first downdraft. Many passengers hit their heads on the ceiling of the plane, or on overhead luggage racks, one so hard that the plastic cover above was cracked and an oxygen mask fell down.

Flight aborted due to injuries

Because of the injuries, the plane diverted from its original route and headed directly to Honolulu Airport, where the injured passengers and crew were checked and most of the injured taken to hospital. Nine sustained serious injuries, ranging from head and neck pain to severe cuts, bruises and back injuries. Most of those who only had minor injuries have already been released from hospital.

The incident was reported to have had a significant effect on the passengers, many of whom will probably remember what happened for a long time to come. Many may question whether the airline could have done anything more to prevent the injuries from happening. Passengers are more or less powerless when seated on a plane and totally rely on the safety of the plane itself and the way it is flown. Were the plane’s pilots told about possible turbulence by ground staff monitoring weather conditions en route? Could flight attendants have given more prominence to warning passengers to wear seat belts while seated? Obviously, if passengers ignore often repeated advice to wear their seat belts, they cannot blame the airline, but one of the jobs of flight attendants is to visually check that passengers are actually using their seat belts.

Turbulence can cause significant injuries

Turbulence related injuries could lead to cuts and bruises, serious head injuries and possible broken limbs, especially if the jolt from the plane’s sudden movement causes someone to be thrown into the path of something hard and sharp. If there is proof that the injuries have been caused by negligence on the part of the airline, or any of its employees, then there is the possibility of pursuing a personal injury claim to recover the cost of the injuries. In the Air Canada case, even some of the uninjured passengers are unsure whether they should proceed on to their destination. Injured passengers may be faced with medical bills from Honolulu hospitals through no fault of their own although Air Canada has said that food and accommodation costs will be met by them. The long term emotional and psychological effect on many of the passengers is hard to measure, but will not be insignificant.

Contact an aviation attorney if injured by turbulence

If you, or a loved one, are injured during a flight due to sudden turbulence and believe that the airline or flight staff, including pilots, could have prevented the injuries or at least minimized then by being more proactive, you should contact an experienced aviation accident lawyer to discuss possible legal action. The Keith Williams Law group represents clients throughout America and Canada and has won several high profile cases filed against airlines due to their proven negligence. The Law Group office can be contacted at (615) 313-3999.