Shannon Airport emergency landing: 12 taken to hospital

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The Boeing 767-300 aircraft at Shannon Airport in County Clare after making an emergency landing this morningImage source, RTÉ
Image caption,
The Boeing 767-300 diverted to Shannon Airport in County Clare after the transatlantic turbulence

Twelve people, including three children, have been injured on a transatlantic flight after it encountered "severe and unexpected turbulence".

The incident prompted the United Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in the Republic of Ireland.

Ten passengers and two crew members were taken to hospital from Shannon Airport shortly before 06:00 BST.

All have now been discharged with the exception of one flight attendant.

The United Airlines flight was travelling from Houston, Texas, to London Heathrow when it diverted to the airport in County Clare.

Media caption,

Passenger Gregory Giagnocavo explains what severe turbulence feels like

One of the passengers on the plane, John Dunton-Downer from London, said it felt like they were going to crash.

'It felt like the plane was going down'

"We reached the mid-Atlantic when, suddenly, there was a sensation of the plane slamming into mid-air. It felt like it was made of paper and hitting a solid object," he said.

"People, including babies, hit the ceiling and there was a lot of screaming. It felt like the plane was going down.

"We were told to get out of our seats and sit on the floor.

"The captain said that we had hit turbulence due to unforeseen weather circumstances."

After the plane landed at Shannon Airport, the injured were taken to University Hospital Limerick, with cuts, bruises and minor head injuries.

"As of 10:30, one patient was still being assessed and the remaining 11 were discharged," said the hospital.

"Hospital staff are working with the airline to transport the passengers back to Shannon Airport to continue their onward journey to London."

What causes plane turbulence in the skies?

According to to the Federal Aviation Administration, turbulence can be caused by:

  • air movement not normally seen
  • atmospheric pressure
  • jet streams
  • air around mountains
  • cold or warm weather fronts
  • thunderstorms

In-air turbulence is the leading cause of injury to people on flights, according to the FAA, and on average 58 people in the US are injured during turbulent flights when not wearing seatbelts every year.

Most accidents involving turbulence happen at 30,000 ft (9144m) or above.

The Boeing 767-300 jet had 207 passengers and 13 crew members on board, and had been due to arrive at Heathrow at 06:55 BST.

"The aircraft diverted to Shannon Airport in Ireland where it was met by medical personnel," said the airline.

"United Airlines is providing care and support to customers and crew of flight UA-880.

"Customers will be departing Shannon to London Heathrow shortly on an alternative aircraft," it added.