Turbulence forces Air Europa flight to land in Brazil, injuries reported

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An Air Europa Boeing plane made an emergency landing in Brazil Monday after several people were injured by “strong turbulence” on a flight from Madrid to Montevideo, the airline said.

The 787-9 Dreamliner was diverted to the airport of Natal in northeastern Brazil on its way to the Uruguayan capital, the Spanish company said on X, adding that passengers who suffered injuries “are receiving attention.”

Uruguay’s foreign ministry said in a statement that passengers in need of medical attention were taken to the Monsenhor Walfredo Gurgel hospital in Natal. Several have already been discharged.

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A Uruguayan diplomatic source told AFP “between 25 and 30” people were injured, but the number was not final.

Most suffered “mild trauma” and “at first sight, no one’s life is at risk,” said the source.

Air Europa said a plane will leave from Madrid later Monday to pick up the passengers in Natal and continue the journey to Uruguay.

In May, a 73-year-old British man died and several other passengers and crew suffered skull, brain and spine injuries when a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 hit severe turbulence on a flight from London and was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Worse turbulence

Air safety experts say passengers are often too casual about wearing seatbelts, leaving them at risk if the plane hits unexpected turbulence.

Scientists also say that so-called clear air turbulence, which is invisible to radar, is getting worse because of climate change.

A 2023 study found the annual duration of clear air turbulence increased by 17 percent from 1979 to 2020, with the most severe cases increasing by more than 50 percent.

Monday’s incident was the latest drama involving a Boeing plane, after a fuselage panel blew out of an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX in January as well as two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people in total.

In March, the US aviation giant announced the departure of CEO Dave Calhoun as it faced intense scrutiny on safety and manufacturing standards.

The company announced earlier Monday it had reached a deal to buy its subcontractor Spirit in a move it said would boost safety and quality control.

Boeing this week also faces a key turning point with the Department of Justice, which concluded in May the company could be prosecuted for violating a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement reached following the two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

A lawyer for the victims’ families said Sunday that the DOJ was offering Boeing a plea deal that would allow it to avoid a trial.

Victims’ families have called for the criminal prosecution of Boeing and its executives, and are seeking a nearly $25 billion fine.

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