By VERENA DOBNIK Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Severe turbulence tossed terrified passengers and crew around a Turkish Airlines plane cabin as it passed over Maine on Saturday, with 30 people suffering bumps, bruises, cuts and a broken leg before the flight landed safely at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, officials said.
Dozens of ambulances lined up in front of a terminal to quickly treat the injured coming off the flight that left Istanbul for the 10-hour trip.
Spokesman Steve Coleman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey told The Associated Press that 28 people were taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens after the plane touched down at 5:35 p.m. Two went to Queens Hospital Medical Center. A flight attendant suffered a broken leg, Coleman said.
Turkish Airlines Flight 1 hit the turbulence about 45 minutes before landing at JFK, Coleman said. The crew declared an emergency while the Boeing 777 was still in the air, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Nobody announced it or anything like that so we figured out something was wrong,” passenger Sead Nikaj told ABC News. “Then I see people start flying on the plane. Then seeing blood all over. I had one of the ladies next to me, she really fell down from her seat on the floor and all her back was completely bloody, while someone that was working in the airplane, she cracked her leg I think completely.”
Passenger Amir Mehrbakhsh said he saw one man frantically screaming. “I think he was like doing a religious chant. I kept hearing him say ‘Jesus,’ like he was visibly distraught.”
“There was like one or two seconds when it was subtle, but then it really started to pick up,” Mehrbakhsh said. “… Just because the drop was so sudden, a lot of people got lifted up and hit their head either on the ceiling or on the side of the plane, and so there were a lot of injuries pretty quickly.”
The Port Authority spokesman said other airport operations were not affected.
Turkish Airlines officials in a statement early Sunday confirmed the flight carrying 326 passengers and 18 crew members “encountered an unusual turbulence about 40 minutes before landing” in New York. The airline said it is “deeply saddened by this unfortunate experience, and closely monitors the health status of injured passengers, and is making resources available to them.”
It was the second mishap on Saturday involving a plane in the New York metropolitan area.
Earlier in the day, Newark Liberty International Airport temporarily closed its runways after a flight from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale made an emergency landing with smoke in its cargo hold .
The National Weather Service had issued advisories on Saturday warning pilots of expected turbulence.