30 Hurt on Turbulent United Flight

People flying in the air, hitting their heads and screaming. That's how passengers on a United Airlines Boeing 777 cross-country flight described a horrifying experience that left as many as 30 passengers injured and forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Denver.

UAL Flight 967 was en route from Washington's Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, Tuesday night, when it encountered severe turbulence over Kansas.

The flight diverted to Denver International Airport where some of the injured were removed by ambulance, and others treated by paramedics at the airport in a makeshift triage, according to various media reports. There were reports of one passenger in serious condition.

Passengers who continued on to LA, on a new flight, described in a story on NBC's "Today Show" the plane making a sudden drop that had people banging their heads and falling back in their seats.

"It felt like I had gone down an elevator shaft, hit the bottom and came back up. That's what it felt like," one woman says.

One man recounts seeing a fellow passenger flying out of his seat and landing on someone's head across the aisle.

Passenger Kaoma Bechaz told the Denver Post, "It was just a huge up and down."

She said the woman next to her slammed so hard into the side of the cabin her head left a crack in the window. Bechaz said the girl across the aisle from her flew into the air and hit the ceiling.

"It was a bit of a blur. People were screaming and yelling," she says. But she adds flight attendants were quickly able to calm things down after the chaos.

While Bechaz, who also appeared on Good Morning America, says she had her seatbelt tight it was not clear whether passengers had been advised to buckle up.

The plane had 255 passengers and 10 crew onboard. United says four crew members were among the injured.

A United spokesman tells the Washington Post the plane encountered "severe turbulence" and diverted to Denver "to get medical attention as quickly as possible for those who are injured."

Scott Bookman, Chief Paramedic for Denver Health, tells reporters at the scene (in the video) that 21 patients had been transported to five local hospitals and that most of the injuries were "minor to moderate with head, neck and back injuries."

"There are mostly walking injuries," he says. There were also reports that one passenger sustained a serious injury.

FAA spokesman Mike Fergus tells the Denver Post the pilot reported "moderate to severe turbulence" to air traffic controllers at a Kansas City FAA facility, and that the plane was flying at 34,000 feet when the pilot asked to divert to Denver.

There were thunderstorms in the Midwest, according to United.

The plane itself was not damaged by the turbulence, Reuters reports.

Photo, Getty Images
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