At least 50 injured in ‘technical event’ on Sydney-Auckland flight

Aboard the LATAM flight as it approached Auckland

Source: X

At least 50 people have been hurt when a Boeing 787 operated by LATAM Airlines dropped abruptly mid-flight from Sydney to Auckland.

A dozen people, including passengers and crew, were taken to a hospital after the aircraft experienced a strong shake mid-flight, the South American carrier said as it investigated the cause.

The flight, with 263 passengers and nine cabin crew members aboard, landed at Auckland airport as scheduled on Monday afternoon.

“The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean it dropped unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence, and people were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, throwing down the aisles,” passenger Brian Jokat told the BBC.

The cause of the apparent sudden change in trajectory of LATAM 800 could not be ascertained immediately. Safety experts say most plane accidents are caused by a cocktail of factors that need to be thoroughly investigated.

“Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the aisle ways. And there was blood coming from several people’s heads,” Jokat, who was not injured in the incident, said.

He said passengers who were doctors provided bandages and neck braces for those who were severely injured.

A spokesperson for Hato Hone St John, which treated about 50 people at the airport, said one person was in serious condition while the rest suffered mild-to-moderate injuries.

“A total of 12 patients were transported to hospital – 10 were taken to Middlemore Hospital, including one patient in a serious condition, one patient was transported to Auckland City Hospital in a moderate condition, and one patient was taken to [Auckland’s children’s hospital] in a moderate condition,” Hato Hone St John area operations manager Anna Pownall said.

St John sent seven ambulances, two major incident support team vehicles, a command unit, and two rapid response vehicles to Auckland Airport as the incident unfolded.

Boeing said it was working to gather more information and would provide any support to the airline.

Boeing shares closed down about 3.0 per cent, after the latest incident involving one of its aircraft. The US Federal Aviation Administration in January barred the troubled planemaker from expanding production of its best-selling 737 MAX narrowbody planes, following “unacceptable” quality issues.

FAA boss Mike Whitaker said the agency would work with Australian or New Zealand authorities to investigate.

“We will certainly follow that closely”, given the airplane was manufactured in the US, he said.

The US National Safety Board said it did not yet have anything official on the incident.

According to flight tracking website FlightRadar24, the eight-year-old Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was on its way to Santiago via Auckland.

LATAM Airlines said a new flight to Chile would depart from Auckland on Tuesday.

In 2008, dozens of people were injured when another wide-body jet, an Airbus 330 operated by Qantas Airways, dropped sharply because of faulty readings from a flight data computer while heading for Perth.

-with AAP
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