American Airlines flight diverted to St. John's with injured passengers

Several people were sent to hospital last night after an American Airlines flight was diverted to St. John's International Airport on its way from Miami to Milan.

Plane passengers speak of terrifying moments during flight

8 years ago
Duration 1:13
Featured VideoRelief, gratitude after turbulence forces diversion to St. John's

Several people were sent to hospital Sunday night after an American Airlines flight was diverted to St. John's International Airport on its way from Miami to Milan.

American Airlines Flight 206 experienced brief but severe turbulence, which left three flight attendants and four passengers with non-life threatening injuries. It landed safely in St. John's at 9:46 p.m.

American Airlines had earlier said four passengers were transported to hospital for medical attention. However, the airline later said that after evaluating four passengers, only two needed to be brought to hospital.

"I'm just happy to be alive. It was scary," said passenger Gustavo Canda, who was travelling to Abu Dhabi.

Passenger Gustavo Canda said he travels frequently, but has never experienced turbulence like he did Sunday evening. (CBC)

 "I was just praying the whole time because it was scary." 

By late Monday morning, two passengers and one flight attendant had been released from hospital in St. John's, an American Airlines official said. 

As well, a replacement plane arrived in St. John's with a new crew and customer service representatives. The plane had been dispatched from Dallas-Fort Worth, the airline told CBC News. 

Injuries occurred at back of plane: passengers

According to passengers, all the injured people were at the back of the plane. Passengers say that some of the flight attendants had been standing up when the turbulence occurred.

"It rolled on its side, everything went flying. It was pretty intense," said passenger Karen Case, who said the plane dropped twice.

"I really thought that was it."

Karen and Jordan Case say they were terrified when their flight encountered turbulence. However, they say the crew acted extremely professionally. (CBC)

Case said that people were screaming, while crew members tried to calm people down.

Canda said that some people on the flight passed out from the turbulence, and that some needed oxygen masks. 

Although he travels about once every three months, Canda said he's never experienced turbulence like he did Sunday evening.

'All the shock came later'

Displaced passengers spent Sunday night at the Delta hotel. While some explored the city on Monday, others stayed at the hotel still processing the events of the flight.

Mari Varkoai, right, said she's proud of her 18-year-old son, Kalpio Kille, for calming down and helping other passengers when the turbulence hit. (CBC)

"We just had a few hours sleep because all the shock came later," said Mari Varkoai, who is from Finland.

"We had a few moments on the plane when we had to take care of other passengers who fainted and had panic attacks. As a mom I'm so proud of my sons because they're only 18 and 14 and they also took care of two women. Now we've just been talking about this incident all day."

"It was a pretty good shock. But I had a good friend sitting next to me so that was a big help. He calmed me down, then I helped others," said her 18-year-old son Kalpio Kille.

Injured passengers being assessed

Passengers say the turbulence started three to four hours after takeoff and that the flight landed in St. John's more than an hour after the turbulence occurred.

The route of American Airlines Flight 206, which was diverted to St. John's Sunday night after seven passengers were injured due to severe turbulence. (The Canadian Press)
Passengers spent Sunday night in St. John's and will fly out Monday evening. (CBC)

There were 203 people on board the Boeing 767 — 192 passengers and 11 crew members. American Airlines officials say the seatbelt light was on when the flight encountered turbulence.

According to the Transportation Safety Board, the turbulence happened over United States airspace so it is under American jurisdiction. 

'Thankful' to be in St. John's

Although the stopover in Newfoundland was unexpected, Case said she was grateful to be safe on the ground, regardless of where she was.

Passenger Jill Nelson-Debord said she was actually glad to be in Newfoundland.

"Always wanted to come here, maybe not under these circumstances," she said, laughing.

'I'm just happy to be alive': passenger

8 years ago
Duration 3:03
Featured VideoAmerican Airlines flight diverted to St. John's with injured passengers and crew

The flight left St. John's for Milan at around 8 p.m. Monday evening.