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Nurses Aboard WestJet Flight Heralded as Heroes

Nurses aboard WestJet flight heralded as heroes
As two federal agencies investigate why a WestJet plane dropped drastically during a flight on Thursday afternoon, sending several passengers to hospital, two nurses aboard the flight are being heralded as heroes.

Three people aboard the Calgary-to-Halifax flight were hospitalized, then released on Friday.

The captain of Flight 80 told passengers to buckle their seatbelts just before the plane hit turbulence about 330 kilometres north of Sudbury, Ont. on Thursday night.

However, passengers on the flight claim the plane dropped about 300 metres within seconds and some were unable to fasten their seatbelts in time.

Kathi Nelson, a registered nurse and Nancy Powers, a licensed practical nurse, both based out of British Columbia, were on board Flight 80 when it hit the turbulence.

They managed to treat the injured passengers during the flight, including a retired doctor from Calgary who sustained bad cuts to his head and leg. The man's wife was hurt when he landed on her, and another woman was also hurt in the incident.

"People were nervous and a little bit uncomfortable with what just happened and they weren't sure whether to laugh, scream, or cry," said Powers.

WestJet has thanked the nurses for treating the injured and helping restore calm among the passengers.

Upon landing, the three injured passengers were all taken to hospital where they were treated then released. Six other passengers were treated at the airport for minor injuries.

"I have been through some rough weather, because I've gone into the little airports in B.C., but not like that," Nelson told CTV Atlantic.

Her friend and colleague agreed: "The things that were in the pocket in front of me, that are normally fairly snug, went straight up and straight down again," Powers said, describing the sudden drop.

TSB's Mike Cunningham said the independent body would be seeking more information from WestJet about what exactly happened to assess whether an investigation is needed.

However, Cunningham said such turbulence is not uncommon.

"We would only investigate if we thought that there was a good potential to advance aviation safety,'' Cunningham told The Canadian Press.

"So if it turns out to be just an unfortunate encounter that was handled in the proper fashion by the crew, there's no need for us to investigate further than that.''

Transport Canada spokeswoman Lucy Vignola said the federal agency would review the incident to determine if the proper procedures were followed.

Peter Spurway, a spokesman for the Robert L. Stanfield International Airport Authority in Halifax, said six people were treated and released at the airport after the plane landed.

A hospital spokesperson at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax would not disclose how the three patients brought in for treatment were doing.

WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem said there had been no advanced warning about the turbulence from other pilots in the area.

"It's what we would call moderate turbulence... the plane's going to get bounced around a little bit," Bartrem told CP.

But the passengers on board said the turbulence was a single drop -- not what would be considered normal.

The plane was flying at an altitude of about 39,000 feet when the incident occurred.

--------------------------------------------------- News Staff
With files from The Canadian Press

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