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Feds launch probe into turbulence aboard flight

July 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The government on Wednesday began investigating how a United Airlines jetliner hit severe turbulence on Tuesday night.Paramedics rushed to treat the injured passengers after making an emergency landing in Denver Tuesday evening.

Twenty-five people were in need of medical attention. One of the passengers was critically injured after the United flight hit severe turbulence.

"I was sleeping at the time when it took place," said passenger Ani Hovhannisyan. "I was listening to all of the screaming and shaking and it was terrible."

The Denver Post has a passenger photo of the aftermath. In the photo, you can clearly see a crack above a window where someone was thrown into the side of the cabin.

"Everything flew up and hit the ceiling," said passenger Patricia McKeon. "Glass broke all over. People who didn't have their seat belts on flew out of their seats and hit the roof of the airplane."

"She went up about five feet and hit the light that was above," said passenger Michael Batts. "I just spent the rest of the flight taking care of her until the paramedics came. It was very disturbing to see something like that happen."

The flight originated at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., and was headed to Los Angeles. It was diverted to Denver International Airport, where it landed safely around 7:45 p.m. and was met by medical crews.

Flight 967 was about 90 miles east-southeast of Kansas City, Mo., at an altitude of about 34,000 feet when it hit the heavy turbulence. It was carrying 255 passengers and 10 crew members. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the FAA had issued a warning to the aircraft about thunderstorms before it hit the turbulence.

United spokesman Mike Trevino said four flight attendants were among the injured, but he had no other details. Trevino said some of the passengers were placed on another plane with a new crew and left Denver on Tuesday night. FAA inspectors found no obvious damage to the plane's exterior.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the incident, board spokeswoman Bridget Serchak said. FAA spokesman Mike Fergus said the incident would be a "front-burner item" for both the FAA and the NTSB.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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