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Turbulence Diverts United Flight

May 1, 2002

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) _ A United Airlines flight from Sydney to San Francisco detoured to Auckland late Wednesday after several people on board were injured when the plane hit severe turbulence over the Pacific Ocean, an airline spokesman said.

The Boeing 747-400 touched down at 10:55 p.m. at Auckland Airport, 400 miles north of the capital, Wellington, and was met by a fleet of waiting ambulances.

St. John Ambulance duty manager Pat Berry said five passengers from flight UA862 were taken to Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital for treatment.

He said a female cabin attendant ``suffered moderate fractures in one leg,″ while a male cabin crew member had ``sustained back and shoulder injuries″ when he was thrown around in the turbulence.

Berry said three passengers were taken to hospital with ``bruising and muscular discomfort.″ Two other passengers with minor injuries were treated by ambulance staff at the airport.

Passenger Julie Greenwood told the New Zealand Herald newspaper the turbulence lasted about 30 seconds.

``It was like an earthquake in the air _ I was lifted out of my chair twice,″ she said.

Airline spokesman in Auckland, Jonathan Tudor, told The Associated Press that United Airlines flight 862, carrying 269 passengers and 21 crew, had taken off from Sydney at 3:35 p.m. New Zealand time and flew into ``clear air turbulence″ after about four hours.

Those who were uninjured would be housed overnight in Auckland hotels overnight, he added. It was not immediately clear when the flight would continue on to San Francisco.

Mary Brander, 77, from Sydney, said the bottom seemed to be falling out of the plane when it struck the turbulence.

``One minute we were in clear blue sky and it hit,″ she told the New Zealand Herald.

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