Passengers Are Suing Jetblue for Injuries From Severe Turbulence
The incident forced the flight to make an emergency landing in Rapid City, South Dakota, where 24 passengers and three crew members were hospitalized for treatment for their injuries.
“All of a sudden, the plane just dropped,” passenger Christopher De Vries told The Sacramento Bee, in 2016. “I just saw laptops, candy and soda splashing onto the ceiling.”
“People who didn't buckle their seat belts were flying up and hitting the ceiling,” passenger Alan Lee told NBC News at the time.
The flight is now the subject of two lawsuits. The most recent was filed on Wednesday, according to The Bee, by two passengers who say their injuries sustained during the incident continue to require medical treatment.
The passengers, Michelle Hill and Ariel Epstein Pollack, allege that the JetBlue crew “disregarded the threat of a major thunderstorm over South Dakota,” The Bee reported.
“JetBlue chose not to advise its Flight 429 passengers to stay seated with seatbelts fastened,” the lawsuit claims. “As a consequence, the thunderstorm’s sudden and severe turbulence threw passengers repeatedly about the cabin and into the ceiling. Many passengers and crew were unrestrained.”
Hill was returning from the bathroom when the turbulence struck. The lawsuit describes that she hit her head on the ceiling. Pollack was sleeping at the time and did not have her seatbelt on, and was “slammed back down with great force.”
Another passenger, Xuan Thi Phan, is suing JetBlue over the incident. She says she was struck in the head and shoulder by a loose overhead compartment door as she was going to the restroom.
JetBlue argues in court documents that the “alleged injuries” were not caused by the airline “but were caused by the comparative fault of the plaintiff(s).”
The two suits accuse the flight of flying “straight into” a thunderstorm. A report on the incident from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the flight “encountered turbulence in cruise flight ... while maneuvering to avoid convective weather.”