A plane en route to Houston made an emergency landing in Miami after 26 passengers were injured in rough turbulence on a Continental Airlines flight early this morning, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said.
Continental Flight 128 heading from Rio de Janeiro to Houston was diverted to MIA and was quickly met by as many as 20 ambulances on the tarmac after it landed shortly before 6 a.m.
Emergency crew members loaded injured passengers into the ambulances from the plane, a Boeing 767, which had been carrying 168 passengers.
Passengers said the turbulence only lasted a few seconds, but the impact was devastating, sending slumbering passengers sprawling into the aisles and some were rocketed into the overhead compartments. Pictures from inside the plane's cabin show where some passengers' heads went through the overhead areas.
"I've never seen turbulence like that, I really thought we wouldn't make it," said passenger Giovani Loss. "We were very scared because we thought the plane had mechanical problems. Nobody was saying anything, we were really quiet."
Many of the passengers were sleeping in their chairs without their seatbelts on, which contributed to the carnage. Fourteen passengers were taken to the hospital and four of them were in serious condition, officials said.
"It was quite bad. Behind me there was this girl who hit her head and was bleeding quite bad," said passenger Fillipi Santos.