10 hospitalized after American Airlines flight jolted midair

An American Airlines airplane.
An American Airlines airplane.

WASHINGTON — An American Airlines flight lurched violently over the Atlantic Ocean, sending drinks and people flying, and putting 10 passengers in the hospital after landing in Philadelphia.

The plane didn’t divert to another airport after the Saturday incident. It made a safe landing at Philadelphia International Airport, where paramedics were standing by.

In the half-hour or so before it reached Philadelphia, the pilot apologized for what the Federal Aviation Administration and American Airlines later described as ‘‘severe turbulence,’’ the cause of which was unknown.


American Airlines didn’t provide details about the 10 people hospitalized but said all had been released by Sunday morning.

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Alex Ehmke said he and his family had spent nearly 10 hours in the air — flying home from a vacation in Europe. Flight attendants were handing out a last round of drinks before landing, and the US shore had just come into view.

‘‘It had been completely uneventful,’’ Ehmke said. ‘‘It looked like a nice day.’’

He and his wife got their coffees. Five minutes or so passed.

What happened next is a bit of blur to Ehmke, but he recalled an announcement urging passengers to fasten their seat belts, though the safety light was already on.


Another passenger, Ian Smith, told ABC affiliate WPVI that flight attendants were told to return to their seats, too.

The turbulence began with moderate shaking but got worse. Ehmke saw drinks spilling and sensed a faint panic in the aisles. Still, he wasn’t worried. Then, suddenly, what he calls ‘‘the lurch.’’

He would later WPVI that ‘‘it felt like the whole plane was in free fall.’’

Other passengers would later report screaming and babies crying.

Ehmke’s wife, a reporter for ProPublica, documented the aftermath on Twitter: beverages sprayed across the ceiling of an Airbus A333, coffee trapped in the housing of the cabin lights.


But in the row behind him, Ehmke said, a man had flown up from his seat, hit the ceiling and landed hard on his father.

The man was one of three passengers who would be hospitalized after the plane landed.

According to American, the other seven injured were crew members.