'The plane just dropped'

UPDATE: 2 p.m.

Nearly three dozen passengers and crew were injured Thursday when an Air Canada flight travelling from Toronto to Sydney, Australia, hit severe turbulence and was forced to divert to Honolulu.

Eyewitnesses described a gut-churning drop in altitude that slammed passengers and flight attendants into the ceiling.

Linda Woodhouse, an Albertan who is moving to Australia, said people had just begun to wake up and move around when the plane experienced a few seconds of minor turbulence. A few moments later, "the plane just dropped," she said.

"The lady in front of me flew up to the ceiling, so I was trying to grab her and make sure she wasn't injured.

"Some people were either getting up to get up to the washroom, or the first little bit of turbulence might have knocked their seatbelts off, and flight attendants were getting up to serve us," she said from Honolulu.

"Those individuals unfortunately flew up and hit the ceiling of the plane and dropped back down again."

Woodhouse credits the crew and passengers with springing into action in the wake of the drop. Four passengers with medical training walked up and down the aisles, helping the injured and reporting their issues to the pilots and crew, who eventually decided to turn the plane back to Hawaii.

While 35 people were reported injured, Woodhouse said about a half-dozen appeared to have suffered more serious injuries.

"There were some facial lacerations, so they put sterile strips on them, other individuals had fractures and there were a couple of people with head and neck injuries from flying up and hitting the ceiling," she said.

UPDATE: noon

It's now believed 35 people were injured when a flight from Vancouver to Hawaii encountered severe turbulence.

Air Canada says the injuries were minor, but at least two passengers were taken to hospital, CTV News reports.

The passengers were not wearing seatbelts when the turbulence struck, and hit their heads on the ceiling.

One crew member may also have been injured.

ORIGINAL: 10:55 a.m.

An Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Australia made an emergency landing in Hawaii Thursday after encountering severe turbulence.

Multiple passengers were injured when the plane experienced "un-forecasted and sudden turbulence" over the Pacific Ocean, according to the airline.

The flight left Vancouver International Airport late Wednesday night with 269 passengers and crew on board, CTV News reports.

"Preliminary information indicates there are about 25 people who have sustained minor injuries," Isabelle Arthur told CTV.

The flight was about two hours past Hawaii when the incident happened, and turned back to land at Honolulu airport about 9:45 a.m. B.C. time.

Medical personnel were on standby to examine the passengers, and hotel arrangements were being made, the airline said.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

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