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Passengers describe horror on LATAM Airlines flight that dropped on way to New Zealand

by Staff

Passengers aboard an LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that took a “nose dive” during a flight to New Zealand described scenes of horror during the severe turbulence. 

At least 50 people were injured Monday after a “strong shake” threw those without seatbelts from their seats and tossed around passengers on the Chilean plane traveling from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand. The plane landed at Auckland Airport as scheduled, but the more than 200 passengers aboard were shaken up by the nightmare flight. 

“The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean it dropped unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence, and people were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, thrown down the aisles,” passenger Brian Jokat told ABC News in Australia on Tuesday.

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“Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the aisleways. And there was blood coming from several people’s heads.”

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The LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane that suddenly lost altitude midflight, injuring dozens of terrified travelers, is seen on the tarmac of the Auckland International Airport on March 12, 2024. (Brett Phibbs/AFP via / Getty Images)

Lucas Ellwood, a DJ from Auckland, described the incident as “violent” and “hectic.” 

“It was over [in] under a second so it was a very quick jolt,” Ellwood told ABC. “It felt like an earthquake had just hit. 

Paramedics and more than 10 emergency vehicles were on scene when the plane landed in Auckland, according to The Associated Press. About 50 people were treated on the scene for minor injuries. 

LATAM Airlines said 10 passengers and three cabin crew members were taken to a medical center for treatment after the flight. The majority were discharged shortly after. One passenger and one crew member required additional attention but did not have life-threatening injuries, according to the statement.

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Ambulances leave Auckland airport

Ambulances leave Auckland International in New Zealand, Monday, March 11, 2024. More than 50 people were injured after what officials described as a “technical event” on a Chilean plane traveling from Sydney, Australia. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via / AP Newsroom)

“LATAM is working in coordination with the respective authorities to support the investigations into the incident,” the airline said in a statement Monday. 

Jokat told ABC that several passengers were not wearing their seatbelts when the plane took a dive.

“If you were in your seat, you went straight up to the ceiling and bounced off the roof. I just happened to be one of the lucky ones who was strapped in for that incident,” he said. 

Clara Azevedo, a passenger from Brisbane, told the New Zealand Herald it felt like a “miracle” when the pilot regained control of the plane after a “free fall” that lasted about 10 seconds. 

LATAM Airliens passenger Janet Baker

Passenger Janet Baker prepares to check in at Auckland airport for a LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via / AP Newsroom)

“We were not sure if we were going to make it or not,” Azevedo said.

She complained that the airline provided passengers with only a single McDonald’s cheeseburger while they waited at the terminal once the plane landed and said they were not fed again until the next morning. 

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Ambulances leave Auckland International Airport

LATAM Airlines said 10 passengers and three cabin crew members were taken to a medical center for treatment after the flight. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via / AP Newsroom)

Azevedo said several passengers were dissatisfied with the communication they’ve received from LATAM since the incident.

“We are all traumatized, and we had to find strength to help people out. But this is not our responsibility, it is LATAM’s – but they haven’t done anything. That’s very frustrating.”

Jacob Thompson of Australia told the outlet he hit his head on the flight and watched his partner get “thrown down the aisle” during the turbulence.

“We didn’t know if we would make it to landing,” he said. 

Passenger Larry Reef

Passenger Larry Reef prepares to check in at Auckland airport for a LATAM Airlines flight to Chile, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. (Dean Purcell/New Zealand Herald via / AP Newsroom)

Thais Iwamoto, another passenger from Sydney, told the Herald she was sleeping when the drop jolted her awake.

“So when I woke up and I was falling, I looked to the side and everyone’s screaming and in shock,” she said.

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“The guy on the other row, he hit his head on the baggage compartment and he actually like broke the thing.”

LATAM Airlines said in a statement to The Associatd Press it “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.”

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