Severe turbulence injures over 30, diverts Air Europa flight to Brazil


More than 30 passengers were injured on an Air Europa flight from Spain to Uruguay during severe turbulence that passengers described as “terrifying” and likened to a “horror movie.”

The Montevideo-bound plane diverted to Natal in northeastern Brazil because of strong turbulence, the airline said in a statement on X. “The plane has landed normally and those who sustained different types of injuries are already being treated,” it added.

More than 30 passengers were treated for injuries, the local health agency said in a statement. Their team, the statement added, coordinated with consulates and representatives of passengers’ countries of Spain, Uruguay, Israel, Germany and Bolivia. The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the nature of injuries suffered by passengers.

Visuals shared on social media showed damage to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s overhead compartments, panels and seats. Passengers speaking to local media described a terrifying scene as the plane began to drop.

It was like a “horror movie,” one passenger told Uruguay’s El Observador newspaper. Those not wearing seat belts were thrown into the air, some hitting the roof, the newspaper reported.

“The sensation was terrifying, feeling like you were falling and that it was never going to end. And you were aware that you were falling at an incalculable speed. And you felt like it was going to end there, that you were going to die,” another passenger told the paper.

An Air Europa flight from Spain to Uruguay made an emergency landing in Natal, Brazil, on July 1 after encountering strong turbulence. (Video: Reuters)

“The pilots asked us to fasten our seat belts because there could be turbulence. They told us that it was a situation that they could not foresee on the radar,” passenger Larissa Gutierrez told Novo Noticias, a Brazilian media outlet.

Turbulence can occur unexpectedly, the Federal Aviation Administration says, and can be caused by atmospheric pressure, jet streams, air around mountains, cold or warm weather fronts or thunderstorms. Wearing a seat-belt and being attentive to flight safety announcements can reduce the risk of injury during turbulence, the agency says.

Injuries from turbulence are relatively rare, according to FAA data. In 2022, 17 people suffered serious turbulence injuries; in 2021, there were six, FAA says.

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In May, a 73-year-old man was killed and 18 others hospitalized when a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore encountered turbulence. Days later, a Doha-to-Dublin-bound Qatar Airways flight left 12 injured during turbulence.

The latest spate of incidents have led to questions over whether climate change is increasing the risk of turbulence on flights. While a number of studies suggest a warming planet is likely to create more turbulence, experts say that weather forecasters are getting better at predicting it, which can help airlines avoid rough skies.

Ana Vanessa Herrero and Rachel Pannett contributed to this report.





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