It sounds like a flight from hell. JetBlue Airways Flight 429 from Boston to Sacramento last Aug. 11, 2016 departed for what should have been an uneventful six-and-a-half hour trip. Instead, the plane flew into violent turbulence forcing an emergency landing in Rapid City, S.D., and sent 24 passengers and three crew members to a local hospital for treatment.
“All of a sudden, the plane just dropped,” reported passenger Christopher De Vries. “It dropped fast enough so that things just flew up in the air. “I just saw laptops, candy and soda splashing onto the ceiling.” Now, the incident is the subject of two lawsuits in Federal Court in Sacramento with the most recent filed Wednesday on behalf of two passengers who say they suffered neck and other injuries that require medical treatment to this day.
The latest lawsuit, filed by Michelle Hill, a Sacramento County resident, and Ariel Epstein Pollack, a Yolo County woman, alleges that the JetBlue crew “disregarded the threat of a major thunderstorm over South Dakota.” It’s alleged that JetBlue Flight 429 flew directly into that thunderstorm and JetBlue chose not to advise its Flight 429 passengers to stay seated with seatbelts fastened. “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.”
Michelle Hill reported that she “could not move her neck and was in shock from the trauma,” the suit says, and continues to suffer from head and neck pain, mental stress and nightmares and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
Epstein Pollack had undergone spinal fusion surgery six months prior to the flight and, after hitting the turbulence, had such pain that “her lower and mid-back felt like it was on fire,” the lawsuit says.
Both lawsuits were filed by Elk Grove attorney Glenn Guenard. The Phan lawsuit also lists the Seattle law firm of Friedman Rubin, which advertises on its website that its efforts “representing plane crash victims, commercial airline passengers, pilots, flight attendants and helicopter crash victims has been nationally recognized.”
“It has resulted in obtaining millions of dollars in compensation for injured clients,” the site says.
Preliminary reports on the incident filed by the National Transportation Safety Board on Dec. 8 found that the flight “encountered turbulence in cruise flight … while maneuvering to avoid convective weather.” “As a result of the turbulence, three flight attendants and 24 passengers received minor injuries,” the NTSB reported. “The remaining 124 passengers and crew were not injured. “The airplane received minor damage.”
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