10 People Injured By Turbulence On United Airlines Flight

Eight passengers and two flight attendants were injured when flight 1028 from Los Angeles to Chicago O’Hare encountered turbulence and was diverted to Denver.

No one seems to know how the people were injured, but they were taken to a Denver area hospital for treatment. The airplane was checked out at Denver and then continued on.

“We don’t have their conditions at this time,” said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. “We’ll be conducting a complete investigation. We currently don’t have details about exactly what happened.”

United’s maintenance employees reviewed the Boeing 757, and “everything checked out okay,” McCarthy said. After getting a new crew, the plane left to continue onto Chicago at 5:44 a.m. this morning. It arrived in Chicago at 9:40 a.m.

10 hurt on turbulent United flight [Denver Post]
(Photo:Peter Kaminski)

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  1. silencedotcom says:

    The FAA is going to be pissed after the turbulence PSAs they created:

    30 second version: [www.faa.gov]
    60 second version: [www.faa.gov]

    Both are equally stupid. But the 60 second one has more stupid examples.

  2. varco says:

    Folks, this is why you fasten your seatbelt when you’re sitting down doing nothing.

  3. holocron says:

    So, out of curiosity, when a passenger is in an experience like this, whether injured or not, what do they get out of it?

    Anything? Free lifetime flying?

  4. hypnotik_jello says:

    @holocron: Hopefully they get jack shit. Because you know it’s really possible to avoid turbulence 100% of the time.

  5. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @holocron: complimentary whiplash. And maybe peanuts if you don’t sue.

  6. RottNDude says:

    This doesn’t seem like a Consumerist-worthy issue. Shit happens, it’s not like United went out of their way to injure the passengers.

  7. dave123 says:

    every flight i’ve ever been on has an announcement about leaving your seatbelt on ALL the time “because we can’t always predict turbulance”.

    and i leave my seatbelt on the entire time.

  8. mupethifi says:

    Mother nature is so going to court on this.

  9. weave says:

    I’m betting the seatbelt light was on and those eight people hurt were the ones who insist on getting up when the light is on.

  10. GrantGannon says:

    @RottNDude:

    Agreed. Kind of like the woman at SkyHarbor who died who just happened to be a United passenger.

  11. swedub says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the same people who were injured do not wear seat belts when driving either. Though it’s hard to argue against injuries sustained by flying debris, like food carts and other plane equipment.

  12. SuperShawn says:

    @ HOLOCRON. When it happened to me, we got taken directly to a “debriefing” when we got off the plane and were given first class (if available) on our next flights. If first class was not available, we got a flight voucher (good for 1 yr, anywhere in US).

    The debriefing was basically just a session on what causes turbulence, what they do to avoid it, “that’s why you keep your seat belt fastened”, etc. They were pretty nice about it.

    It was really scary, everything fell down- suitcases, air masks, blankets/pillows. What really got me was that the flight attendants looked scared to death. If they had looked like it wasn’t bad, we probably wouldn’t be as worried. But they looked really scared as well.

    We had to ride it out for a bit as we had too much gas to land, the waiting (really) was the worst part.

  13. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @holocron: when a passenger is in an experience like this, whether injured or not, what do they get out of it?

    Volenti non fit injuria

    Likely, they’ll get exactly what people at the baseball stadium get when they are hit in the face by a fly ball – nothing. Turbulence is pretty common – it seems fair to assume that anyone flying on a plane is (or should be) aware of it and the risk it presents.

    Personally, I think that if they were wearing their seatbelt, or had a legitimate reason to not be wearing it (they were in the lavatory, for example) then they should get reimbursed for their medical expenses as a gesture of goodwill.

  14. Celticlady says:

    “I take the issue of Turbulence very ‘seriously’. I am examining this issue am working on a solution.”

    -Mother Nature

  15. privatejoker75 says:

    i know how they were hurt…because they were probably standing around like morons even though the pilot told them to buckle up. I have no sympathy for idiots

  16. jonworld says:

    These people better get some kind of compensation. Many people say its unavoidable, but turbulence is avoidable almost 99% of the time. However, there’s just so much damn air traffic that the controllers can’t squeeze every single plane into a turbulence-free area without causing a collision risk.

    This reminds me of when I was also on a United Flight (also to Ohare) and air traffic control decided to ruin our evening not only by delaying our flight for two hours, but also by flying us straight through a large clump of bad storms. The fasten seatbelt sign was on the whole flight and by the time we landed, everyone needed to take a massive piss. 15 minutes into the flight I determined that if we had gone 500 feet, we would’ve avoided all the turbulence. If the Air Traffic control aren’t smart enough to figure that out, I’m seriously worried about my safety in other matters.

  17. chai_tea says:

    @weave: (And other like-minded commentors)
    Excuse me. I’m writing this on painkillers and muscle relaxants at the
    moment due to a nearly 20-year old injury I received to my sacrum on a
    flight WHILE STRAPPED INTO MY SEAT. While I would never call myself
    disabled, I do occasionally suffer from quite a lot of soreness to this
    day, though I never saw a dime from the airline.

    Why? Because I never thought my pain would continue for years. By
    the time I contacted an attorney, and he told me I had a very good
    chance of recovering medical expenses related to the injury up until
    (but not beyond) that point, the legal window to make a claim had
    closed.

    I’m not bitter about it, because a lesser pilot may not have pulled
    it together fast enough to get us back on the ground and I’m eternally
    grateful to him.

    Your knee-jerk assumption that injuries can only happen to those
    flagrantly disobeying safety warnings is, well… narrow-minded and
    assy.

  18. jamesdenver says:

    @jonworld:

    You figured that out did you? Did you use your iPhone? (running joke here)

    If ATC had moved you vertically 500 feet you would have been MORE at risk for a mid-air. Your pilot would not have complied, and the controller would have been fired.

    Go figure out why and report back to us…

  19. dgcaste says:

    @chai_tea: Your knee-jerk assumption that weave’s assumption is narrow-minded and assy is, well… narrow-minded and assy. :-)

  20. weave says:

    @chai_tea: I fly a lot and see it happen time and time again, people ignore the seat belt signs. I’ve even see a mother run her kid to the restroom as the plane was landing and the flight attendants were already strapped into their own jump seats.

    Since at any given time during a flight, seat belt light on or not, there’s always a few up and running around then chances are very good that the people injured were them.

    Sorry you got injured, but still doesn’t mean my knee-jerk assumption isn’t actually true!

  21. weave says:

    @jamesdenver: I was recently on a flight from ORD to PHL and the plane never went above 23k. We were flying through cloud tops the entire way and suffering from turbulence for the entire time. Pilot said he tried several altitudes to get around it, but I had a GPS on me and it told me we were at the same altitude the entire time. Now granted maybe “change altitude” meant 50 feet adjustments or something.

    There’s only so much free space up there. At least some pilots are honest, like the number of times I flew BWI to ROC and one pilot told us that flight path was restricted to around 22k because they had to stay under arriving flights from the west landing at northeast airports further near the coast (like JFK)

  22. Amy Alkon says:

    Cheapskates travelers who hold their crying babies in their laps would do well to keep this in mind.

  23. swalve says:

    @jonworld: iPhone to the rescue again, huh? You realize that 500 feet higher probably encroached into another flight lane.

    @chai_tea: How did flying cause this injury?

  24. ywgflyer says:

    [flightaware.com]

    Would appear by the track that it was encountered around the KLAS area. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that was a mountain rotor… Great reason to be, y’know, wearing your seat belt when you’re in your seat. Otherwise bad things can happen. Like this. I always make it a point to remind my passengers to keep their belts on throughout the flight just because of things like this (I fly for a small airline in Canada).

    @jonworld: Normal deviation for turbulence can be anywhere from 1000-5000ft. 500ft really won’t make a difference, unless you’re right at the top of some convective activity and you want to outclimb it a bit. Chances are, if you’re flying United, you’re not down in the weeds at 6000ft where that applies – you’re at 35,000 or so, and it’s generally an all or nothing deal – turbulence over a wide range, or smooth rides/light chop.

  25. The Porkchop Express says:

    @jamesdenver: thanks, you beat me to it. This guy may be some kind of genius though, or more….he could have a sixth sense. one that only knows where turbulence is.

  26. chai_tea says:

    @swalve:

    The plane dropped a couple of hundred feet straight down (not nose
    down) quite suddenly. I felt it in my pelvis right away, but since the
    rest of the flight was pure terrifying turbulence, my family member and
    I put my lingering soreness off on muscle tension and nerves. The
    airline met us at the gate to tend to any injuries, and it’s my own
    doing for just wanting to hail a cab and get home.

    BTW, Lots of cuts and bruises from overhead cargo opening up on some
    people, but no apparent major injuries at the time. The flight
    attendant was pretty shaken up, though.

  27. ywgflyer says:

    @chai_tea:

    How many people on your flight were belted in when the CAT occured? My bet is that a lot weren’t, and that there was probably a fair amount of baggage/laptops/food trays/etc flying around when it happened as well. That does suck. You probably didn’t drop a few hundred feet just like that, though…if you did, the airplane would more than likely be hurtling towards the green stuff, sans wings – that would involve a pretty huge load on the wings, and they’re only certified to take a certain amount.

    I’m curious to know if it was the flight crew that told you the ‘few hundred feet’ bit, though. Even severe to extreme turbulence tends to cause a vertical deviation of about 100ft, max – it’s the speed of the deviation and the number of repeated motions that really screws you up.

  28. inkhead says:

    Imagine being strapped to a chair in your HOUSE during an earthquake.

    .

    People always forget that flying can be really dangerous. If you ever fly small 2-6 seater planes, you will realize some of the stuff you endure… I’ve been on a United Flight to Kansas, and got a bloody nose because we were dropping down 100 feet in a second, when we hit jet air.

    You’d be amazed at the things planes were designed to withstand. Make no illusions, it’s easy to get hurt while being strapped in your seat.