Severe turbulence on Air Europa flight causes neck and skull fractures

Severe turbulence on an Air Europa flight from Spain to Uruguay injured more than two dozen passengers Monday, officials said. Several passengers suffered neck and skull fractures. It was at least the second case of serious injuries from turbulence worldwide in less than a month.

Flight UX045 made an emergency landing early Monday morning in the coastal city of Natal, Brazil, after encountering turbulence more than four hours after takeoff from Madrid, flight data showed.

Some passengers hit their heads during the turbulence, causing head, neck and chest injuries, Brazilian public health officials said. Thirty-six passengers were treated for injuries and 23 were taken to a hospital, health and airport officials said.

Some passengers who were treated were suffering from shock but had no physical injuries, officials said. Five passengers remained in hospital Monday evening, four of them in intensive care, officials said.

Passengers described a terrifying scene on the Boeing 787 jet, with several people flying through the cabin. Two women told the news channel Telemundo that at least one passenger was thrown from his seat and became stuck in the ceiling of the plane.

Two videos posted on social media appeared make a man lie in an area near or above the aircraft overhead bins and then be helped down by two other passengers. Other photos and videos showed broken ceiling panels and chairs.

“There was a person hanging between the plastic ceiling and the metal roof behind it, and he had to be pulled down,” said Evangelina Saravia, a passenger from Uruguay. told Telemundo“The same thing happened to a baby.”

Another passenger, Romina Apai, said she was sitting next to the man who got stuck in the ceiling. “He flew and got stuck in the roof, in the trash — we couldn’t find him,” she said Telemundo. When the plane stabilized, she added, “people were falling on top of seats, on top of other people.”

It is relatively rare for turbulence to cause such serious injuries. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, only 163 serious injuries from aircraft turbulence were recorded in the United States between 2009 and 2022.

But Monday’s episode is the second such case in less than a month. In June, a 73-year-old man died when the Singapore Airlines flight he was on plummeted 6,000 feet in a matter of minutes. More than 70 other people on that flight were injured.

Turbulence itself is common and generally not dangerous. It is generally caused by changes in wind speed and direction, including storms and jet streams, and can cause sudden changes in the altitude and speed of an aircraft. Passengers who are not wearing seat belts can be injured because turbulence can lift them out of their seats.

Recent studies show that climate change may cause turbulence to become more common as increased carbon dioxide emissions affect airflows.

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