Turbulence Injures Dozens Of Passengers On Diverted United Flight

A United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles hit more than a few bumps in the road Monday night when turbulence not only caused the plane to be diverted to Denver, but also left at least 25 people injured.

Flight 967 was carrying 255 passengers and 10 crew members — and hopefully no monkeys
— when it ran into turbulence during its cross-country trip.

According to the Denver Post, at least 4 crew members and 21 passengers were injured in the incident.

Before the plane made its unscheduled landing at Denver International, airport staff had set up a makeshift triage unit to handle those needing immediate medical attention.

Twenty-one of the injured people were ultimately taken to area hospitals. A spokesman for the Denver Fire Dept. only described one injury as serious, while the other injured passengers suffered mainly from things like bruises, sprains, whiplash and strains.

“It was a bit of a blur. People were screaming and yelling,” recalled one passenger on board the flight. She also described watching as the woman in the seat next to hear “slammed into the side of the cabin, leaving a crack above the window, and a girl across the aisle flew into the air and hit the ceiling.”

The FAA inspection team that looked over the plane after it landed in Denver found no exterior damage but interior damage to overhead bins and arm rests.

Around two hours after the plane landed in Denver, United had many of the uninjured passengers on a different plane heading to L.A.

Turbulence injures 25 on United flight diverted to DIA [Denver Post]


Edit Your Comment

  1. NeverLetMeDown says:

    A reminder why, when the airline tells you to fasten your seatbelt while seated, even when the seatbelt light is off, that’s a good idea.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Seriously. You can’t get thrown to the other side of the cabin if you’ve got your seatbelt fastened.

      • axhandler1 says:

        If you were in a window seat, I’d imagine that extreme turbulence could easily cause your head to smash into the cabin wall, even with your seatbelt fastened. I completely agree that having your seatbelt fastened during the flight is much safer though.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Yeah, I totally understand why the woman left a crack in the wall with her noggin, but I was specifically referring to “and a girl across the aisle flew into the air and hit the ceiling” – this is why seatbelts should be tightly fastened.

        • Anathema777 says:

          I think the poster is talking about this person: “…and a girl across the aisle flew into the air and hit the ceiling.” People buckled in can be injured too, of course, but your chances of staying safe or getting only minor injuries are way better with the seat belt than without.

    • HungryGal says:

      A fastened seatbelt can leave a pretty nasty bruise in an accident, though. Especially when it’s the ‘lap belt’ style they have on airplanes.

      Also, a girl I went to HS with died from a whiplash type head injury in a car accident. She had her seatbelt on.

      Just a few things to think about before you start criticizing the passenger’s behavior.

      • Draygonia says:

        I bet that bruise from being ragdolled around the cabin is a tad worse.

      • 47ka says:

        Bruise…or head injury? It’s so difficult to decide which one I’d rather have.

      • kmw2 says:

        A bruise is much better than the damage you sustain from being flung up against the ceiling due to a sudden sharp bout of turbulence. Similarly, the whiplash you sustain with your seatbelt on is better than the skull damage caused by impact with the overhead storage units.

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        Seatbelts have been proven to prevent death or worse injury already in cars. It stands to reason that this would be the same for planes. If that girl moved so forcefully as to die from whiplash she probably would have died without the seatbelt as well. Maybe a movement that strong would’ve smashed her into whatever was in front of her and killed her anyway it a slightly messier fashion.

      • Salty Johnson says:

        Just so you know… what one would consider moderate turbulence in a commercial airliner would involve the craft bouncing perhaps 3 or 4 feet in each direction. Sharp severe turbulence could slam you into a wall, a chair, your next-seat neighbor, or even the ceiling. I’d rather have a minor bruise across my lap than a major bruise or laceration on my head.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Psssssh. You are such a sheep. Doing what “THEY” tell you to do, because they say it will make you safe. Did you know that the airline “safety” position they tell you to get into will really kill you?!?! I saw it on Mythbusters! They tried it and one of them died! So you just keep doing what the little Eichmann’s in the uniforms tell you. Follow in their little lockstep. Pretty soon you’ll be strapped down in a 9 point harness with a bag over your head, because it’s safe, and a “good idea”.

      But not me. While you’re all asleep, I’m awake!

  2. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Whiplash? Was the plane rear-ended by a UFO? Maybe it was the sky equivalent of a swoop and squat.

    • teh says:

      You forget how powerful air can be — especially during thunderstorms. If you hit a sudden updraft, it will feel like the plane was hit.

  3. outoftheblew says:

    Last week on a Midwest Airlines flight, the pilots were anticipating turbulence and instructed passengers to remain in their seat with the seatbelt fastened. Quite a few people then took that as an opportunity to unfasten their seatbelts and get up from their seat (opposite day?). So the flight attendant got on and got a little stern with them, forewarning of the injuries to themselves and to others (like above) that would happen during turbulence.

    That’s why I tend to think that folks on this flight didn’t listen to the flight crew’s instructions.

  4. Jdavis says:

    Why weren’t these people wearing seatbelts?

  5. NarcolepticGirl says:

    “and a girl across the aisle flew into the air and hit the ceiling”

    How does that happen if you’re wearing your seatbelt? Neither she nor her parents didn’t think that using a seatbelt during turbulance was a good idea?

    Sounds like that must’ve sucked. Not much you can do, I guess.

    I personally don’t like turbulance because I get terrified that someone near me will get sick – other than that, I don’t mind it too much (unless there was a situation as bad as this article)

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      I had a passenger next to me get sick once. He made it to the lav, though, so I guess I lucked out.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        I would have had a panic attack and then frantically ask if anyone wanted to switch seats. Probably cause a big scene. That’s the main reason I refused to fly until I was 26 or so.

    • Etoiles says:

      As I understood the story, it was very sudden, very severe turbulence. I think, from the number of un-belted people, that probably the sign wasn’t on and the flight had been smooth up to that point. (It’s what I heard, anyway, but that may or may not be accurate.)

      Still a good reminder of the value of wearing your seat belt when you’re seated, but I’m that person who always has the luck to be in the bathroom when the sudden turbulence (thank god, never yet THAT bad) comes out of nowhere…

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        I could understand that… but:

        “The seatbelt sign was on when the plane struck the turbulence over the American Midwest, a United Airlines official told ABC News, but not all passengers were strapped in.”

      • Anathema777 says:

        Because of the possibility of unexpected turbulence, most airlines — including United — now ask people to remain belted in when they are seated, whether the sign is on or not.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      On a flight to Albany in a puddlejumper, we hit a major pocket of turbulence…it was like a roller coaster. Didn’t bother me much, but as we were deplaning, one of the seats in the back was covered in puke. It was nasty…I’ve always been afraid of that since..

    • dakeypoo says:

      Turbulence isn’t that common. Mostly what airplanes experience in the air is called chop. In this case, yes, it was most likely severe turbulence.

  6. NarcolepticGirl says:


    “The seatbelt sign was on when the plane struck the turbulence over the American Midwest, a United Airlines official told ABC News, but not all passengers were strapped in.

    “I saw at least two people hit the ceiling,” passenger Alexander Walan said Tuesday. “A girl in front of me — two rows — I saw her hit the ceiling and slammed back down. Luckily I had my seatbelt on.”

    One woman was tossed with such force that her head cracked the ceiling of the cabin.”

    • seanjustinpenn says:

      Wow, now that’s using your head!
      Seriously though, it sounds like the plane hit some crazy turbulence. Sounds like it could’ve been a lot worse.

  7. chaesar says:

    were there snakes?

    • PanCake BuTT says:

      …or monkeys, or undercover cops, or fat people, or those who paid the lowest fare ? Just curious.

  8. benbell says:

    I fly a decent amount (~25k miles/year) and yet I still get nervous when we hit turbulence. NOT because I am afraid of the plane crashing but because of this type of shit happening, it scares me just thinking about it.

    • teh says:

      As long as you are fastened in your seat, you should be in the clear. Planes are designed to withstand this sort of turbulence, we, unfortunately, are not.

  9. James says:

    Hw s ths cnsmr rltd nws?

  10. maxx22 says:

    One of the problems is that the fligh attendants virtually never stop making announcements during a flight to the point where passengers tune them out and just don’t “hear” the important stuff. “You can use your electronics now”; “don’t disable the smoke detectors”;”leave your seatbelt fastened when at your seat”; “in 10 minutes we will serve snacks”; “here is a list of snacks”; “in 10 minutes, the movie will start”; “you can hear the movie on channel 2”; “if you are a member of our flyer club, you get 2000 miles on this flight”. Etc. Further, on may flights, the announcements are in multiple languages. They seem to drone on and on.

    Somewhere in that neverending list is the statement to refasten your seatbelts because of weather!

    It gets lost in the static.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      You would think when the plane begins to shimmy and bump around, you would wake up from your stupor.

      BTW, do you also tune out street signs and traffic lights, because there are so many of them?

      • maxx22 says:

        1) I am one of those who leaves my seat belt on all the time. Sometimes there just isn’t any warning before a plane hits an air pocket.

        2) When I’m NOT driving and NOT responsible for “navigation”, I may well tune out the signs. If we have a problem, I expect that the driver will yell “HANG ON” or something similar and I’ll try to brace myself.

    • Etoiles says:

      I guess I’m flying the right airlines; I almost never hear announcements from the flight crew when we’re above 12,000 feet, unless something serious is going on.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      They probably have to do that, like the cashiers that have to ask if you want the supersized meal and get in trouble if they don’t ask the question. That’s gotta be frustrating for them, knowing that people aren’t listening to the safety instructions because of all the other blather. It makes their job harder when there is a problem.

    • Tim says:

      There are lights in the plane that light up when you should keep your seatbelt on.

      And even so, they ALWAYS say that you should have your seatbelt on whenever possible. Turning off the seatbelt light just means that if you need to get up, you can, but you should have your seatbelt on when you’re seated.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      What? What airlines are you using?

      The only announcements I’ve heard are the safety announcements and a short update or two about time/weather while in the air.

      Also, there are seatbelt lights for anyone who doesn’t like being buckled in the whole trip (I just leave mine on because I usually fall asleep).

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Easy solution to that problem – leave your seatbelt fastened whenever you’re in your seat.

    • hmburgers says:


      Have you never noticed that light with the picture of the seat belt? Yeah… that’s the one that is illuminated whenever the captain wants you to keep your seat belt fastened…

    • Pax says:

      When the little bell dings, and the “fasten seatbelts” sign over your seat lights up … FASTEN YOUR DAMNED SEATBELT ALREADY.

  11. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let ’em smash. Into each other.

  12. htowninsomniac says:

    Why is Consumerist posting this? How were consumers wronged by a company in this case?

    Most of these passengers probably weren’t buckled up. If you’re not wearing your seat belt and you’re sitting, it’s your very own fault. If you’re on the way to the lavatory or if you are hurt while wearing the seat belt, it’s probably still not the airline’s fault.

  13. Me - now with more humidity says:

    “Then bring me my brown trousers!”

  14. smo0 says:

    Okay – I’ve been in a situation, some what like this… on a SW flight from LA to Vegas… omg… scary… so here’s my issue:

    “Around two hours after the plane landed in Denver, United had many of the uninjured passengers on a different plane heading to L.A.”

    What the F*CK would you get on a plane again?!

    Since my incident, I have yet to get on another plane….. and I’ve been flying since I was 2 weeks old and by myself since I was 7.

    Life changing moments….

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      “Around two hours after the plane landed in Denver, United had many of the uninjured passengers on a different plane heading to L.A.”

      What the F*CK would you get on a plane again?!

      Because they’re not phobic? Not saying that to be harsh, it’s just that some people react to events like this by developing a phobia (defined as an irrational fear not supported by the facts), and some don’t. You clearly did, which isn’t at all unusual, but not everybody reacts the same way. I have no idea what my response would have been, btw.

      • smo0 says:

        I’m slowly getting over something that happened to be last August… but.. I mean… they pretty much got on ANOTHER plane… RIGHT after this occured… either someone gave them a great supply of adavan and tequila shots…..

      • Kibit says:

        She may have also had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Which I have dealt with and is very difficult.

    • justjoe says:

      I wrecked my car pretty bad one time. That didn’t stop me from driving.

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Well, I would rather get on a plan than walk for 6 days to my destination.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      My car got hit by a deer. People tell me to watch out for them. My theory is what are the chances the same car will get hit by a deer? What are the chances the same plane will get hit by turbulence?

  15. xspook says:

    I was on one of those once…but there were other facts that contributed to my nearly crapping myself. Prior to take off, the ladder truck backed into the wing causing sufficient damage that we had to de-plane and wait for it to be “fixed”. A few hours later and we were over the North Atlantic – then the violent turbulence hit. I thought the wing had just fallen off. And yes, I got right on that connecting flight afterwards.

  16. racshot65 says:

    Do we know if meals were served on this flight ?

  17. Amy Alkon says:

    This is why cheapskate “parents” should buy a seat for their baby and a carseat and not think they can hold the baby in their laps. Your kid shouldn’t get brain damage so you can save $300.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Interestingly enough, though, the decision not to require carseats for infants on airplanes was based on safety – the analysis showed that the increased cost of flying for families would push a certain number to drive, and since driving is much more dangerous per mile than flying, requiring carseats for infants on planes would actually cost lives.

  18. CarnivorousPETA says:

    Was there a meal served?