50 people injured by ‘strong movement’ on Boeing plane flying from Australia to New Zealand

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At least 50 people were injured Monday after a LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner “dipped so dramatically into a nose dive for a couple of seconds” during a flight to New Zealand, causing passengers to slam into the roof of the cabin, witnesses say. 

LATAM Airlines says the plane traveling from Sydney, Australia, experienced “a technical event during the flight which caused a strong movement.” Paramedics and more than 10 emergency vehicles were waiting for passengers when flight LA800 landed in Auckland. 

“The plane dipped so dramatically into a nose dive for a couple of seconds and around 30 people hit the ceiling hard,” said Daniel, one passenger onboard the aircraft, according to the New Zealand Herald.  

“None of us knew what had happened until after the flight, I was just trying to keep everyone calm,” he added. “We never heard any announcement from the captain.” 

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At least 50 people were injured after what officials described as a “technical event” on a Boeing plane traveling from Sydney, Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The newspaper reports that the incident happened with about an hour left into the flight. 

“I had just dozed off and I luckily had my seatbelt on, and all of a sudden the plane just dropped,” passenger Brian Jokat also told broadcaster RNZ. “It wasn’t one of those things where you hit turbulence and you drop a few times … we just dropped.” 

Jokat said one passenger two seats away from him wasn’t wearing his seatbelt when the drop happened. 

“I thought I was dreaming. I opened my eyes and he was on the roof of the plane on his back, looking down on me. It was like The Exorcist,” he said. 

Jokat also told RNZ that the incident occurred in seconds. 

“I felt the plane take a nosedive – it felt like it was at the top of a rollercoaster, and then it flattened out again,” he reportedly added, noting that people onboard and the flight crew tended to the injured until the plane landed. 

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LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

A LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is seen in Santiago, Chile, in March 2019. ( Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

About 50 people were treated at the scene for mostly mild injuries while 13 of them were transported to a hospital, an ambulance spokesperson told the Associated Press. One patient who was on the flight was reportedly in serious condition.   

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s final destination was Santiago, Chile, but was landing at Auckland Airport in accordance with its normal flight path, according to Reuters. The flight to Santiago on Monday has been canceled and rescheduled for Tuesday, with the airline providing food and accommodation to travelers affected, according to RNZ.

“LATAM regrets the inconvenience and injury this situation may have caused its passengers, and reiterates its commitment to safety as a priority within the framework of its operational standards,” the airline said.  

Jokat told RNZ the pilot of the plane came to the back of the cabin after landing in Auckland. 

Ambulances leaving airport

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner landed at Auckland Airport, which is typical for its flight path, but was ultimately on its way to Santiago, Chile. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

“I asked him ‘what happened?’ and he said to me, ‘I lost my instrumentation briefly and then it just came back all of a sudden,’” Jokat said.

The incident is the latest mishap involving a Boeing plane.

In January, a door plug blew off Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 – a Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft – causing the cabin to depressurize and forcing it to make an emergency landing in Portland, Oregon. The Justice Department reportedly is opening an investigation into that incident.

Last week, a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 departing San Francisco lost a wheel during takeoff. The tire fell and proceeded to damage a few parked cars at the airport.

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The next day, a Boeing 737 skidded off the runway after landing in Houston, Texas, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating an incident in February in which a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by United Airlines “experienced ‘stuck’ rudder pedals during the landing rollout at Newark Liberty International Airport” in New Jersey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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