Twenty-four Russians and three Thais were hurt, with some suffering serious fractures and bruising, when the plane unexpectedly hit an “air hole” during its approach to Suvarnabhumi Airport, according to the statement from Russian Embassy in Bangkok.
“Some injured passengers were not wearing seat belts. All victims were taken to a local hospital with various injuries, mostly fractures and bruises. Some require surgery. Fifteen people remain hospitalized,” the embassy said.
The Airport Authority of Thailand said in a press release that 30 passengers had been injured during the flight, with 27 individuals transferred to Samitivej Srinakarin hospital in Bangkok, while three chose to seek their own treatment.
It added that the Boeing 777 was traveling with 318 passengers and 14 crew and that it was struck with turbulence as it flew over Myanmar.
‘Blood on the ceiling’
Rostik Rusev, who is from Ukraine but lives in Hackensack, New Jersey, was on the flight and told CNN the turbulence was so bad it threw passengers out of their seats.
“It lasted for about 10 seconds, the plane was being thrown everywhere,” Rusev told CNN.
“There was blood on the ceiling, people with broken noses, babies who were hurt. It was horrible. It came out of nowhere. It was like driving a car and a tire suddenly bursts.
“The aircraft personnel couldn’t have been more professional and courageous. They were heroes in everything they were doing.”
Rusev also provided CNN with a photograph showing blood on an overhead compartment, which, he says, was the result of people being thrown out of their seats and hitting the ceiling.
An “air hole” is an area of low pressure air where there differential causes the plane to drop, according to Richard Quest, CNN’s airline and aviation correspondent. He said it can also be the result of air currents shifting, crossing the jet stream or storms in the area.
Quest said “air holes” are not dangerous to the aircraft — only those who aren’t wearing seat belts when the plane travels through the air pockets.
‘There were broken legs, arms, bruised faces’
Another passenger, Margarita Vladimir, told CNN that the journey had been mostly peaceful, but as passengers were visiting the toilet and preparing for landing, the turbulence erupted.
“We saw so many people getting seriously hurt. There were broken legs, arms, bruised faces,” she said.
In a video she provided to CNN, the aftermath could be seen. One passenger had fallen to the floor and was being comforted by a passenger seated across the aisle. Others on the flight looked disorientated. As the footage panned to the galley, a man could be seen propped up against the emergency door with a gash to his head.
Vladimir said that she suffered only scratches and bruises on her arms and shoulder but her child was hit in the head so they were taken to the hospital for assessment. She says they’ve been given the all clear but that there are still people from the flight who remain at the medical facility.
Aeroflot issued a statement explaining the circumstances surrounding the incident, which occurred about 40 minutes before landing, saying that this type of turbulence known as “clear sky turbulence” is difficult to prepare for as “it does not occur in clouds but in clear skies with good visibility.”
The flight operator cited this as the reason passengers were not warned to return to their seats before adding that around 750 cases of clear sky turbulence occurs globally each year.
Russian officials were at hospitals in the Thai capital providing translation and counseling assistance.