A Boston-trained orthopedic surgeon rushed to help passengers and the crew when a Jet Blue flight that originated at Logan International Airport encountered fierce turbulence, injuring 22 passengers and two crew members.
JetBlue Flight 429 took off from Logan at 5:25 p.m. Thursday en route to Sacramento, according to flightstats.com. It made an emergency landing in Rapid City, S.D., four hours later, according to Katherine McMillan, a spokeswoman for JetBlue Airlines. Passengers able to continue to California later boarded another plane to finish their journey.
Dr. Alan H. Lee, an orthopedic surgeon on Flight 429 who treated one flight attendant for injuries while still on the plane, said the flight had been turbulent, but normal, until a sudden drop.
“I was working on my laptop when the plane suddenly dropped,” Lee wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. “I don’t know how far it dropped, but all I recall is my laptop almost hit the ceiling, several other passengers hit their heads, and a bunch of the overhead bins popped open.”
According to Lee, the sudden drop in altitude was what caused all of the injuries.
“People were flying all over the place,” Lee said. “If people weren’t wearing their seat belt, they hit their head on the ceiling.”
Crew members had been walking up and down the aisles, ensuring people were wearing seat belts, Lee said. After the drop, two crew members “rushed to the front of the plane and the captain came out of the cockpit’’ and asked for medical help from passengers.
Lee, who trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, answered the call.
“I only attended to one of the flight attendants on board, and briefly checked the others when we landed,” Lee wrote. “I would describe the injuries as moderate lacerations and contusions, but unfortunately don’t know what further imaging/treatment they received at the hospital.”
Three flight attendants were standing in the rear galley, according to Lee, when the drop sent all three “upwards [and] hitting the ceiling with enough force that it resulted in at least one hole in the ceiling tile.”
Other damage to the cabin from the sudden drop included cracks to the overhead bins. Lee said one toilet also “came completely undone.”
The flight landed in South Dakota within 15 minutes, he said.
Lee’s initial evaluation focused on identifying life-threatening issues, which he’s thankful he did not find.
According to Lee, there were several children on board the flight, ranging from babies to elementary school-age children.
It would be between five and six hours before the replacement plane, sent from California, arrived to take the rest of the passengers to Sacramento.
Lee, who e-mailed from the connecting flight to Sacramento, said that in the 1½ hours since boarding, he had yet to see anybody stand up.
“I think we’re all still a bit cautious,” Lee said.Aimee Ortiz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @aimee_ortiz.