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Severe JetBlue Turbulence Leaves 24 with Injuries

inside of a commercial airplane

A JetBlue flight from Boston, Massachusetts to Sacramento, California flew between two thunderstorms and encountered massive turbulence on the night of August 11, 2016 and was forced to make an emergency landing in South Dakota. Two dozen of the passengers and crew sustained injuries as a result of the JetBlue turbulence.

JetBlue Flight 429 departed from Boston at 5:45 p.m. EST on Thursday and was forced to divert to Rapid City, South Dakota after it was determined that a number of passengers and members of the flight crew required medical attention. The Airbus A320 plane landed safely in Rapid City at around 6:30 p.m. MST.

According to a spokesperson for Rapid City Regional Hospital, 22 passengers and two crew members were treated for minor injuries following the severe JetBlue turbulence. All were later released.

The airline sent out a replacement plane to South Dakota to transport passengers to Sacramento. That plane reached its final destination at 4:19 a.m. PST Friday.

JetBlue Turbulence: ‘People Were Floating’

Rhonda Lynam of Pebble Beach, California was one of many terrified passengers aboard JetBlue Flight 429. She likened the experience to being on an elevator, 50 stories high, then the elevator enters a free fall. Some of her fellow passengers reportedly flew out of their seats as the plane entered into a sudden drop. A few unlucky people were slammed into the ceiling and overhead compartments when the plane dropped.

Another passenger, Rhonda Renee, described the JetBlue turbulence as a “bad dream.” Renee said the plane’s steep drop was so severe that even passengers who were buckled into their seat somehow managed to fly out of their seat belts and hit the ceiling. “It was very scary,” she told CNN.

Passenger Derek Lindahl posted photos of the damage caused by the JetBlue turbulence on Twitter. One of the photos shows the toilet in one of the Airbus A320 lavatories completely torn away from its foundation. Lindahl also described seeing a flight attendant that was standing in one of the galleys when the JetBlue turbulence occurred. She reportedly flew upward hitting the ceiling when the plane entered into the sudden drop. The impact was so severe that it caused a panel on the ceiling to become dislodged.

Alan Lee, a doctor and passenger who helped others in the immediate aftermath of the JetBlue turbulence, said he was working on his laptop at the time. “I don’t know how far it dropped, but all I recall is my laptop almost hit the ceiling, several other passengers hit their heads, and a bunch of overhead bins popped open.” Lee told the media that the sudden drop was the cause of all the injuries suffered aboard JetBlue Flight 429.

What Causes Turbulence?

Air passengers are all too familiar with minor to moderate turbulence which happens often during flight. However, when turbulence is severe, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Turbulence can be caused by a number of different conditions, including cold or warm weather fronts, atmospheric pressure, thunderstorms, jet streams or the air around mountains. This is not to say that turbulence is only associated with these weather conditions; on the contrary, turbulence can happen when the weather conditions appear to be clear.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), turbulence is the most common cause of injury to flight attendants and passengers in nonfatal commercial airline accidents. U.S. air carriers reported 234 turbulence incidents between 1980 and 2008, which resulted in three deaths and 298 serious injuries. Of the serious injuries, 184 were flight attendants and 114 were passengers.

Could the JetBlue Flight 429 Pilots Have Flown Around the Turbulence?

According to CNN, JetBlue Flight 429 encountered heavy thunderstorms over the central part South Dakota. The plane passed through one system, only to encounter a second. The JetBlue pilots decided to fly over or around the second thunderstorm. Per the CNN report, the turbulence was probably caused by one or both of the storms.

Brandon Miller of CNN’s World Weather team said that while some turbulence cannot be detected by radar, the JetBlue turbulence was “not that kind.” This turbulence, according to Miller, was caused by the rapid rising of air within the thunderstorms.

“You can see thunderstorms, both from the cockpit and on radar,” Miller says. “Pilots know there is turbulence in the storms and do their best to fly around or over them. Although they tried, they could not do that in this situation.”

Inflight Injury and Turbulence Lawsuit

With so many people flying across the world every day, it is important to know your rights if you are injured during an inflight emergency. Victims of commercial airline turbulence will have to sort through a tangle set legal issues in order to find out whether or not they are entitled to compensation for their injuries. Having an experienced aviation personal injury lawyer can help.

The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has a long track record of success handling airline injury cases. Our firm has litigated against many of the largest airlines in the world, doing our best to secure maximum compensation for our clients. We have extensive experience handling inflight emergency and turbulence cases.

Baum Hedlund is currently representing 29 passengers who were injured in the JetBlue Flight 1416 inflight emergency, which occurred on September 18, 2014. The pilots of JetBlue Flight 1416 were forced to make an emergency landing in Long Beach, California when an engine fire caused the passenger cabin to fill with smoke.

In the last decade, in addition to the JetBlue Flight 1416 case, our firm has represented the victims of the following inflight emergencies:

  • US Airways Flight 797 – November 8, 2011 – Inflight Incident
  • Southwest Airlines Flight 812 – April 1, 2011 – Inflight Fuselage Rupture
  • US Airways Flight 583 – February 24, 2011 – Inflight Incident (Depressurization)
  • United Airlines Flight 967 – July 20, 2010 – Inflight Turbulence
  • United Airlines Flight 1028 – January 21, 2008 – Inflight Turbulence

If you’d like to speak to a Baum Hedlund attorney about your claim, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (855) 948-5098.



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