Passenger says fellow flyers 'bounced off the roof' when plane dove during flight to New Zealand

LATAM airline plane AP

A passenger aboard a flight from Australia to New Zealand described fellow passengers being thrown from their seats and hitting the roof when the plane suddenly plunged, before safely landing at Auckland Airport.

At least 50 people were injured Monday after the LATAM Airlines plane experienced a “strong shake,” according to the Chilean airline. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner landed as scheduled and was set to continue to Santiago, Chile, The Associated Press reported.

“The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean it dropped unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence, and people were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, thrown down the aisles,” Brian Jokat, a passenger, told ABC News in Australia.

“Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the aisle ways. And there was blood coming from several people’s heads,” he said.

A number of passengers weren’t wearing seatbelts when the flight suddenly dropped. Jokat said he was one of the “lucky ones” who was strapped in.

LATAM Airlines said the flight was carrying 263 passengers and nine flight and cabin crew members when it experienced “a strong shake.” The company said the cause of the shake is currently under investigation.

In total, 10 passengers and three crew members were taken to a medical center after landing. The airline said the majority of them were discharged shortly after. One passenger and one crew member required additional attention but did not have life-threatening injuries, LATAM said.

“LATAM is working in coordination with the respective authorities to support he investigations into the incident,” the company’s statement said.

In an initial statement reported by the AP, the airline said there was “a technical event” during the flight that caused the movement.

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) said Tuesday that it was seizing the cockpit voice recorder and flight data for the flight.

The TAIC said in a statement online that since the incident occurred in international airspace, it fell into Chilean accident investigation authority to open an inquiry. The New Zealand investigator said Chilean authorities confirmed they opened an investigation into the flight.

The Hill has reached out to LATAM and the TAIC for further comment.  

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