“There was no warning of this particular patch of air,” he said.
The seatbelt sign was on at the time, but some of those who were injured did not have their seatbelts on, Mr. Snook said. The National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating, he said.
“We’re going to have to look back at the investigation to understand aside from the seatbelt sign being on, what other measures were taken,” he added.
Thomas Vaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said there had been a weather advisory posted for thunderstorms at the time of the turbulence.
“Possibly, they flew into a thunderstorm,” he said.
Kaylee Reyes, a passenger on flight HA35, told Hawaii News Now that the turbulence had come out of nowhere, causing her mother, who had her seatbelt unbuckled, to be tossed up and hit the ceiling of the aircraft cabin.
In recent years, other passengers have dealt with similarly frightening turbulence that resulted in injuries onboard. In 2019, 30 people were treated for injuries at Kennedy International Airport in New York when a flight hit severe turbulence. In 2015, 21 passengers aboard an Air Canada flight were injured when sudden and intense turbulence threw passengers out of their seats.
Jim Ireland, the director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, said at the news conference that it was “fortunate that there were not any deaths or other critical injuries.”
“It’s the holidays, everybody’s trying to come here for vacation or come back home,” he said. “It’s generally a time when people are happy. And so this is obviously something that they didn’t plan for in their journey here.”
Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.