United Airlines flight diverts to Denver after hitting turbulence; 30 injured, 1 seriously

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

United flight hits turbulence, injuring 30

DENVER — A United Airlines jetliner was diverted to Denver on Tuesday after experiencing “significant turbulence,” injuring about 30 people onboard, one seriously, a fire official said.

The flight originated at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., and was headed to Los Angeles.

It landed safely around 7:45 p.m. at Denver International Airport, where medical crews met the plane, Denver Fire Department spokesman Eric Tade said.

Denver Health spokeswoman Dee Martinez said 21 people were being transported to five area hospitals. She released no information on the extent of their injuries.

However, Tade said one person was seriously hurt, while the other injuries included bruises, whiplash, strains and sprains. He said some people were treated at the scene.

“There are mostly walking injuries,” Tade told The Denver Post. “They are treating patients now.”

United spokesman Michael Trevino told the Post that four of the injured were flight attendants and the rest were passengers.

United Airlines spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said Flight 967 was carrying 255 passengers and 10 crew members. She said the crew decided to be safe and land the Boeing 777 in Denver to tend to the injured.

McCarthy said United was working to find flights for the uninjured passengers. Trevino added that a special United flight took off for Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m. carrying many passengers from the diverted flight.

Mike Fergus of the Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle said the plane was over Kansas when it hit the turbulence. He said the plane’s altitude was about 34,000 feet when the pilot asked to be diverted to Denver.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said there was “no obvious damage” to the plane’s exterior, but he said the aircraft was being taken to a hangar for additional inspection.

Tim Smith of Boulder was on United Flight 937, which also flew in from Washington and landed after the diverted plane. He said his flight was delayed an hour and 20 minutes because of thunderstorms, but didn’t have any problems.

Smith saw ambulances and police cars surrounding a gate on the tarmac and one person on a stretcher when his plane taxied to the gate at the Denver airport.

“Thank God I wasn’t on that flight,” Smith said.

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