Nine hurt in flight 'free fall'

Local | Stella Wong 5 Jun 2017

At least nine passengers and crew on a flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong were hurt when it was hit by heavy turbulence.

KLM flight KL887 met turbulence at 29,000 feet over Zhaoqing city, in Guangdong province, at 9.50am, about 30 minutes before landing yesterday.

The turbulence lasted less than a minute, with a passenger describing the plane as dropping like Ocean Park's thrill ride Abyss Turbo Drop.

The Boeing 747-400 jet landed at Hong Kong International Airport at 10.16am, according to the Airport Authority.

Five men and four women, aged 31 to 55, were injured, of whom six passengers and two cabin crew were taken to hospital in a fleet of ambulances, police said. One passenger would not go to hospital.

Two were sent to Princess Margaret Hospital, one to Yan Chai Hospital and five to North Lantau Hospital. They were all in stable or satisfactory condition.

Around 10am, the airport received a report of the aircraft hitting turbulence and arranged for landing immediately. Rescue services were alerted and a fleet of ambulances was on standby at the airport.

The plane dropped soon after the pilot announced that the flight would arrive in Hong Kong after 30-40 minutes, a female passenger said. Another passenger said flight attendants were collecting trays after serving breakfast.

"For around three seconds, it was like an Abyss Turbo Drop. It was just like a free fall," she said, adding that the passenger next to her hit the ceiling as he was not wearing a seat belt. Most of the injured were in the front and the back of the cabin.

She said the pilot later explained that the plane was already at the end of the turbulence so he thought the flight would not be affected that much.

Another on board said it was "really scary" at that time and a few passengers were screaming. "Many people and items were thrown upwards and hit the ceiling. They dropped back down two or three seconds later," she said.

A hurt passenger named Chan admitted he was not wearing his seat belt when the turbulence hit. He suffered a minor head injury but would not go to hospital.

A cabin crew member needed a neck brace while being carried to the ambulance on a stretcher, while an injured passenger required oxygen. Passenger Mark, who was put on a wheelchair, recalled that the aircraft took "a slight drop" and the crew "looked after them very well." He said that he only had "a cut across my ribs."

The flight landed safely four minutes earlier than the scheduled. The Airport Authority said airport operations were not affected by the incident.



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