More than 20 passengers and crew members were injured last night when a JetBlue flight from Boston to Sacramento hit extreme turbulence, forcing the flight to make an emergency landing in South Dakota.
Jason Layne of Arlington was on that flight with his fiancée, Pamela, on their way to a friend’s wedding.
“I’m a meteorology nerd, and JetBlue has wifi, so I was kind of taking a look, and I noticed there was severe weather in the area,” he said.
But he figured the pilot probably had things under control.
“It was kind of calm, and then out of nowhere we just got this huge jolt that made us drop probably about 100 feet in a split second,” Layne said.
Right away, it was clear who had their seat belts on, and who didn’t.
“Anyone who wasn’t strapped in just smashed their head into the overhead bin,” he said. “And one gentleman actually cracked the ceiling above him open with his head.”
Others flew over seats and into the aisle. Layne couldn’t see the flight attendants behind him, but two of them were injured.
That initial jolt was followed by about 45 seconds of the worst turbulence he’d ever felt.
“I was like, wow, this might be the end of my life in a split second,” he said.
As the turbulence calmed down, both Layne and his fiancée immediately found themselves thinking about another scary experience recently on Route 1 in Saugus.
“A piece of debris flew off a truck and almost went through our windshield and killed us,” he said with a laugh. “So this is our second time we’ve had a brush with a near-death experience.”
And somehow, that brought them a level of calm. They’d lived through that on Route 1. They could get through this in the air. The turbulence calmed down, and about 5 minutes later the pilot came over the loudspeaker.
“First thing the pilot said was ‘is there anybody with a medical background on the plane?’ Three people rang the bell.”
A doctor started tending to the injured people. Layne said he was actually impressed with how calmly the passengers handled the situation. And in large part, he credits the flight crew for that.
“I really believe that they did a good job of making me feel safe,” he said.
The pilot came back on the loudspeaker, and said they needed to make an emergency landing to get medical attention for injured. About five minutes later, they began their descent to Rapid City, South Dakota. That’s when Layne saw one of the flight attendants.
“Once we landed, she was brought on a stretcher from the back of a plane,” he said.
Seven customers and two crew members were taken to a hospital by ambulance; 15 more were taken by bus to be checked out.
Layne and his fiancée wound up catching another flight, and finally made it to Sacramento. And despite the terrifying ordeal, he was left with this takeaway.
“I still feel I’d be safer in a plane than a car in Boston,” he said.