7 hospitalized after Lufthansa flight experiences 'significant turbulence,' diverted to Virginia

ByColin McCullough and Amanda Jackson, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, March 2, 2023
7 hospitalized after Lufthansa flight hits 'significant turbulence'
A Lufthansa flight that experienced "significant turbulence" was diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport and seven people on board were taken to area hospitals.

DULLES, Va. -- A Lufthansa flight traveling from Texas to Germany was diverted to Virginia's Washington Dulles International Airport on Wednesday evening because of turbulence that left some passengers injured, an airport spokesperson said.

Lufthansa Flight 469, which took off from Austin, experienced "significant turbulence" and landed safely at Dulles, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesperson Michael Cabbage said.

Seven people were transported to hospitals, Cabbage said.

Brief but severe turbulence happened about 90 minutes after takeoff and resulted in minor injuries to some passengers, a statement given to CNN by a Lufthansa spokesperson reads.

"This was so-called clear air turbulence, which can occur without visible weather phenomena or advance warning," the statement reads.

"The affected passengers were given initial care on board by the flight attendants trained for such cases. As the safety and well-being of passengers and crew members is the top priority at all times, the cockpit crew decided to make an alternate landing to (Dulles airport) after flying through the turbulence."

The crew of the Airbus A330 reported encountering the turbulence at an altitude of 37,000 feet over Tennessee, the Federal Aviation Administration told CNN.

The flight landed at Dulles airport around 9:10 p.m., FAA spokesperson Ian Gregor said.

The FAA will investigate the incident, Gregor said.

'The plane increased altitude, then we fell 1,000 feet'

Susan Zimmerman was among the passengers on board Flight 469 when it encountered the severe turbulence on Wednesday.

Zimmerman, who is from Austin and five months pregnant, told CNN she had just finished eating and was about to go to the lavatory when the turbulence hit.

"During dinner service, there suddenly was a wind shear, the plane increased altitude, then we fell 1,000 feet," she said.

"It was like unexpectedly free-falling for five seconds off the top of a rollercoaster, plates and glassware were up at the ceiling, and my purse from the floor flew behind me to the right."

She noted that on two occasions the plane felt like it was dropping suddenly and she could hear people screaming and glass breaking.

"I'm glad for the most part we are all OK. This was pretty shocking," said Zimmerman. "There was a moment of 'oh my God, am I going to meet my daughter.'"

Once the plane settled, she said items from the dinner service had been littered throughout the cabin as though there had been a food fight on board.

Zimmerman wasn't injured, she said, but saw that others had been hurt. After the plane landed, first responders boarded the flight and tended to the injured, she said.

Zimmerman was offered medical treatment and an evaluation but said she was fine, adding that her unborn child must have been asleep during the ordeal because she started kicking and being active again 20 minutes later.

The airline offered Zimmerman a hotel voucher and she has been rebooked on a new flight departing Thursday, she said.

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