Turbulence is typically an uncomfortable, nerve-wracking but harmless experience on board a flight. But last Wednesday, a regional American Airlines flight from Florida to Tennesee hit intense “unexpected turbulence” that caused six passengers and two flight attendants to be injured.
The flight had to make an emergency landing as a result of the injured persons.
On 20 July, American Airlines’ regional carrier American Eagle began a scheduled flight, operated by Envoy Air, at 14:36 local time. Flight 3609 took off from Tampa, Florida, with 52 passengers and four crew onboard to Nashville, Tennessee.
The flight was operated by an Embraer ERJ-175.
An hour into the flight, the aircraft experienced severe turbulence that lasted around 30 seconds, causing injuries to several passengers and crew that had been walking around the cabin at the time.
Brad Tice was a passenger on board Flight 3609. He told local media that one of the injured flight attendants had blood all over her face due to hitting her head on an object during the turbulence. Tice shared his initial experience of the turbulence:
“Everything was smooth and I think that was why it was such a surprise because all of a sudden we just hit a bumpy spot, and what started off as shaky soon turned into something much more significant.”
He continued, shedding light on the intensity of the turbulence:
“Anyone who didn’t have their seatbelt on, they hit against the ceiling. The guy who was behind me cracked the plastic in the vents in the ceiling because he hit so hard.”
Flight 3609 opted to divert to Birmingham, Alabama, following discussions with air traffic control, citing a medical emergency.
The Envoy Air aircraft safely landed in Birmingham 20 minutes after the incident.
At least 7 of the injured individuals were taken to hospital with neck and back injuries. First responders from Birmingham Fire Department confirmed that there were, fortunately, no severe injuries to anyone on board. However, some head trauma was reported.
Brad Tice was thankful that the aircraft kept everyone mainly safe and sound considering the intensity of the turbulence:
“It won’t stop me from flying. If anything, it reassured me of the safety of flying and the sturdiness of aircraft.”
A replacement aircraft, also an Embraer ERJ-175, picked up the stranded passengers and flew them to Tennessee approximately 6 hours later.
The initial aircraft remained at Birmingham Airport for 20 hours and returned to service for a flight to Dallas the following morning.
The incident is under investigation by the FAA.
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