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TSB Looking Into Turbulent WestJet Flight that Left Passengers Injured

TSB Looking Into Turbulent WestJet Flight that Left Passengers Injured
HALIFAX (CP) — Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board are both looking into a WestJet flight from Calgary to Halifax that hit rough turbulence, injuring several passengers and sending three to hospital.

The Boeing 737 was north of Sudbury, Ont., on Thursday night when the plane dropped several hundred metres with little warning.

Many passengers, including some lined up at the washroom, didn't have enough time to put on their seatbelts, and nine people were hurt.

Mike Cunningham of the Transportation Safety Board said the independent body would be seeking more information from WestJet about what happened and then assess whether an investigation is needed.

However, he said such turbulence isn't uncommon, and if the board determines the airline and flight crew followed proper procedure and there aren't any major safety issues, an investigation would be unlikely.

"We would only investigate if we thought that there was a good potential to advance aviation safety," Cunningham said Friday.

"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 and determine whether proper procedures were followed.

WestJet has categorized the turbulence as "moderate" and said there had been no warnings about turbulence in the area.

Mary Ellen Chesnutt, a 24-year-old who was travelling to Halifax from Victoria to visit her family in Nova Scotia, said it was a terrifying experience that was the "worst flight" she has ever been on.

She said there had been light turbulence several times during the flight, but there was almost no warning before the plane dropped, tossing some passengers around the cabin.

"It was probably the scariest experience I've ever had," Chesnutt said Friday from her parents' home in Westville, N.S.

"I don't like to fly that much in the first place, and I was just thinking, please let me land, please let me land. I was praying a lot."

She praised the flight crew for staying focused and keeping the passengers calm.

The plane was met by three ambulances on the tarmac when it landed in Halifax.

Three passengers were sent to hospital, while six others were checked by paramedics at the airport. The condition of the hospitalized passengers wasn't known.

The plane was flying at an altitude of about 12,000 metres about 330 kilometres north of Sudbury when it hit turbulence, said WestJet spokesman Richard Bartrem. There had been no warnings about turbulence from other pilots in other planes.

"It's what we would call moderate turbulence," Bartrem said.

"It's just that it's a little bumpier," he said. In moderate turbulence, "the plane's going to get bounced around a little bit."

While turbulence is common, it's "quite rare" for it to cause injuries, Bartrem said.

Peter Spurway, a spokesman for the Robert L. Stanfield International Airport Authority in Halifax, said the airport was told about the injured passengers about 40 minutes before the plane touched down.

"We provided emergency response and three ambulances were escorted to the tarmac so they were available immediately adjacent to the aircraft," he said.

Spurway said a food services truck with a boom arm was used to lower the injured to the ground and waiting paramedics.

Two nurses who were on the flight and tended to the injured say one man sustained a bad cut to his head and leg.

They said his wife was also hurt when he landed on her.


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