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'Flight from hell': 21 Air Canada passengers in hospital after severe turbulence forced landing

More than 20 passengers have been taken to hospital after severe turbulence forced an Air Canada flight to divert to Calgary.

Called the "flight from hell" by one shaken passenger, Flight AC088 from Shanghai to Toronto made an unscheduled landing at about 3.30pm on Tuesday (local time) after violent turbulence sent passengers flying out of their seats.

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Passengers recount frightening Air Canada flight

Passengers describe their experiences of an Air Canada flight that was forced to land when it encountered severe turbulence en route from Shanghai to Toronto.

A sudden and violent drop sent some passengers flying out of their seats and down the aisle, slamming into walls and the overhead baggage compartments, CBC News reported.

Passenger Bing Feng said people were screaming and praying as the oxygen masks fell from above their heads.

Passengers and belongings hurtled through the cabin after an Air Canada flight hit severe turbulence over Alaska.
Passengers and belongings hurtled through the cabin after an Air Canada flight hit severe turbulence over Alaska.  Photo: Helen Zhang/The Canadian Press

Emergency services assessed 25 passengers on the ground at Calgary Airport, most for neck and back injuries, transporting 21 people to hospital, including three children.

Several passengers were wheeled through the airport terminal on stretchers and loaded into 15 waiting ambulances.

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None of the injuries were life threatening, however seven passengers suffered injuries deemed serious, according to an emergency services spokesman, Stuart Brideaux

Passenger Connie Gelber said the girl sitting beside her was thrown "right out of her seat down the aisle".

"It was frightening … Honestly, we didn't know if we were going to live or die," Ms Gelber told news site Windsor Star, dubbing the ordeal the "flight from hell".

Fellow passenger Liu Pinzhou also recounted seeing passengers "fly" through the cabin when the turbulence hit.

"It was crazy," he said.

Rui Jhao disembarked with a bruised and bleeding forehead.

"I flew out and hit the wall, so I got damaged," he said.

An 11-year-old girl was treated for back pain from Calgary South Health Campus after she was bucked from her seat.

He father Chang Wang said she was asleep and was not wearing her seatbelt when the turbulence hit.

"She has some bruising, but I think she is going to be OK," Mr Wang said.

Another 11-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy were also taken to hospital with suspected injuries.

A preliminary count suggested the plane as carrying 332 passengers and 19 crew, Air Canada advised.

Passenger Gord Murray said the cabin crew were very professional throughout, and the pilot had made an earlier announcement warning everyone to brace for turbulence.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board sent two investigators to the Calgary airport.

It is understood the turbulence was encountered over Alaska.

The investigators will request the aircraft's black box and will interview Air Canada employees, said spokeswoman Julie Leroux.

"They will see if they can gather enough evidence to understand what happened," she said.