There were 37 people injured when Air Canada Flight 33 experienced severe and unexpected turbulence over the Pacific Ocean early Thursday morning, including nine who suffered injuries that officials characterize as serious.

The flight, which originated in Toronto, took off from Vancouver International Airport late Wednesday night with 269 people on board, including crew members.

Passengers said the turbulence hit without warning about four hours into the flight, when most people were sleeping. They said the plane suddenly jerked downward, sending passengers who weren't buckled up flying out of their seats.

"The lady in front of us, I don't think she had her seatbelt on and she hit the ceiling," said Sharon Thornton. "A couple of stewardesses were injured and a lot of people had cuts to their head."

Another passenger, Laurie Tyler, said there was a chaotic scene afterward with babies crying and oxygen masks dangling in the cabin, but that they didn't experience any more serious turbulence before the plane made an emergency landing in Hawaii.

"I didn't want to get up," Tyler said. "Some people at the back fell out of their chairs and into the aisle, so it was wild."

U.S. emergency officials said three ambulances and an ambulance-bus were used to transport patients to hospital after the plane arrived.

An Air Canada spokesperson says all those injured have been released from local hospitals and the aircraft will undergo inspection before returning to service.

Chief Dean Nakano of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services told reporters that nine people were seriously hurt, 21 suffered minor injuries and seven more refused to be taken to hospital for treatment.

"We had several patients with neck and back injuries, some with lacerations to the head," said Nakano. "The ages ranged from children to the elderly."

A number of Air Canada crew members were among the people injured, according to authorities.

Officials in Hawaii are set to speak about the dozens of Air Canada passengers injured when a flight hit severe turbulence. You can read the developing story here:

Posted by CTV Vancouver on Thursday, July 11, 2019

The airline, which has only addressed the incident briefly by email, described what happened as "un-forecasted and sudden turbulence."

The flight was about two hours past Hawaii when the incident happened, and the pilots turned back to make an emergency landing at Honolulu airport. Air Canada said the plane landed normally at around 9:45 a.m. Vancouver time.

"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," spokesperson Isabelle Arthur told CTV News in an email.

"We are currently making arrangements for the passengers including hotel accommodations and meals in Honolulu, as well as options for resumption of the flight."


Unexpected holiday in Hawaii

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