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United flight makes emergency landing after turbulence hurts six

June 14, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • United Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport.
United Airlines aircraft at Los Angeles International Airport. (Richard Derk )

Six people were hospitalized earlier this week when a New York-bound United Airlines flight hit violent turbulence and was forced to make an emergency landing in western Louisiana. On Thursday, one flight attendant remained in serious condition.

The Boeing 737 took off from Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport on Tuesday evening. Half an hour into the flight, as the crew prepared the beverage cart, the plane hit winds and rain 22,000 feet above eastern Texas. Flight attendants and passengers who weren't secured by seat belts slammed into the ceiling, then the floor, officials said.

Flight 1632 diverted to the nearest commercial airport in Lake Charles, La.

“Diversions from Houston are typical – but medical diversions, not so much,” Heath Allen, the executive director of Lake Charles Regional Airport, told the Los Angeles Times. “Typically, injuries are going to happen when you’re not belted in.”

United Airlines could not immediately be reached for comment.

The plane landed at 8:41 p.m., and emergency responders from Lake Charles boarded the plane to analyze injuries. Six people were taken to a local hospital. Three passengers and the two other crew members were treated and released, hospital spokesman Matthew Felder said. The remaining flight attendant’s condition is serious but stable.

United sent engineers and more crew on a later flight to get the plane ready for takeoff again, Allen said. Six hours later, the plane departed for New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the pilot, the plane and the conditions, spokesman Eric Weiss said.

"I heard both the pilot and a flight attendant say that they had been flying for 20 or 30 years and had never seen anything like what they saw," passenger Jeff Hornback, a frequent flier, told KPLC.

Tuesday’s emergency landing came in the midst of severe thunderstorms moving through the greater Houston area, Allen said.  

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Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com

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