According to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the cloud rose vertically like a plume of smoke in seconds before a Hawaiian Airlines flight hit severe turbulence last month, killing 25 people.
The captain of the Dec. 18 flight from Phoenix to Honolulu told investigators that flight conditions were smooth with clear skies when a cloud rose in front of the plane and there was no time to change direction, the report said.
He called the chief flight attendant and said there might be a mix-up. Within one to three seconds, the plane “encountered severe turbulence,” the report said.
A short time later, the chief flight attendant told the crew that there were multiple injuries in the passenger compartment.
Of the 291 passengers and crew on board, 25 were injured, including four passengers and two crew members who were seriously injured, the report said. The plane suffered minor damage.
Tiffany Reyes, one of the passengers taken to hospitals, said the next day that she had just returned to her seat from the bathroom and was preparing to fasten her seat belt when the flight went down.
In an instant, Reyes said, he found himself on the hallway floor, staring at the cavernous ceiling panels and the cracked bathroom sign that hung.
“I asked everyone around me. “Was that me?” Reyes said. “They said I apparently flew into the ceiling and hit the ground.”
Reyes said at first he thought something had hit the plane and it crashed and that they were going to die because he had never experienced anything so violent on a flight.
“It’s the scariest experience I’ve had in my entire 40 years of life,” Reyes said.
Hawaiian Airlines Chief Operating Officer John Snook said at the time that such turbulence was unusual, noting that the airline had not experienced anything like it in recent history. The seat belt sign was on at the time.