HONOLULU — Thirty-seven passengers and crew sustained minor injuries Thursday when an Air Canada flight travelling from Toronto to Sydney, Australia, ran into severe turbulence, prompting an emergency landing in Honolulu.
Jim Howe with Emergency Services Honolulu is praised the flight crew and first responders.
“I want to say to everybody involved–including the pilots and the staff on the plane–congratulations on a job well done. No lives lost,” he said.
Flight AC33 was about two hours past Hawaii over the Pacific Ocean early Thursday morning when “unforecasted and sudden turbulence” triggered a turnaround and caused “minor injuries” for about 35 travellers, the airline said in an email.
Eyewitnesses described a gut-churning drop in altitude that slammed passengers and flight attendants into the ceiling.
“We hit turbulence and we all hit the roof and everything fell down, and stuff… people went flying,” passenger Jess Smith told local station KHON in Honolulu.
“I watched a whole bunch of people hit the ceiling of the plane,” said Alex MacDonald. “A couple of the air hostesses were bringing food out at the time, and they hit the roof as well. But as a whole people seem to be OK, didn’t seem to be any major injuries.”
MacDonald added that staff and ground crew were “amazing” in the wake of the incident.
WATCH: Passengers describe the panic onboard during the severe turbulence
The aircraft, a Boeing 777-200, had 269 passengers and 15 crew members on board.
Some received medical attention on arrival at the airport in Honolulu, according to Air Canada.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our flights, passengers and crew and as a precaution, medical personnel are on standby to examine passengers in Honolulu,” Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said.
The airline said it is arranging hotel accommodations and meals for passengers in Honolulu as well as options for resumption of the flight.
The turbulence happened at about 10,970 metres 966 kilometres southwest of Honolulu, said U.S. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor.
WATCH: Video taken onboard shows the plane’s oxygen masks hanging from the overhead compartment
-With files from Aleksandra Sagan and The Associated Press