Dozens injured as turbulence slams jet

Author: By Tamara Lush, Associated Press Writer

One passenger said he felt Continental Flight 128 drop without warning while
flight attendants were in the aisles, throwing some of them against the
roof.

Houston-based Continental said there were 168 people and 11 crew on the Boeing
767. The airline released a statement that said the fasten seat belt sign
was illuminated at the time and that about 28 passengers were treated in
Miami.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokesman Elkin Sierra said four people were seriously
injured aboard the Boeing 767 and another 22 were in stable condition with
bumps and bruises. A total of 13 people were taken to hospitals.

The plane was on a night flight from Rio de Janeiro to Houston. Federal
Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the turbulence
struck about halfway between Puerto Rico and Grand Turk island, north of the
Dominican Republic.

The plane reported hitting severe turbulence at 4:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) and
landed safely about an hour later at Miami International Airport, Bergen
said.

Passenger Fabio Ottolini of Houston said it was about 6 hours into the flight
when he felt the aircraft suddenly drop. “People didn’t have time to do
anything,” he said.

Ottolini said flight attendents were serving items in the aisles when the
turbulence hit. He said some flight attendenats were thrown against the roof
of the cabin and may have been among those injured.

Rio was also the departure airport for Air France Flight 447 that crashed in
the mid-Atlantic, more than 900 miles (1,448 kilometers) off Brazil’s
northeastern coast, in thunderstorms on June 1, killing all 228 people on
board.

The FAA’s Bergen cautioned against drawing any parallels and said the cause
and severity of the turbulence in the Continental case was still being
investigated.

“I wouldn’t draw any conclusions and comparisons,” Bergen said.

Airport officials say some passengers were going on to Houston on various
Continental flights about midday. He did not know when the remaining
passengers would be expected to arrive in Houston.

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