Clearwater, Florida— Passengers describe frightening moments aboard an Allegiant Air flight on its way to Asheville, N.C., Monday after the plane made a sudden and unexpected dive.
The MD-83 hit rough air while flying just south of Jacksonville making a sudden dive of several thousand feet in a matter of minutes.
"It felt like a bad roller coaster ride," said passenger Jeff Adler of Hallandale, Fla. "When you see those people flying up and down in a movie, that's basically what happened."
A spokesperson for the airline confirms Flight 916 with 147 passengers and 6 crew members aboard, hit weather-related turbulence injuring three passengers and a flight attendant.
Passengers say the crew member was in the middle of drink service when the plane made the sudden dive.
Several people were hurt when an Allegiant airplane hit turbulence.
"She took a beating. She hit the ceiling and she had this gash on the side of her face. Actually she looked a little dazed," said Adler.
The airline says one passenger was injured by the falling flight attendant, another by the drink cart. A third passenger who was not buckled in according to his brother was also transported to the hospital complaining of an injured neck.
"He hit his head on the roof of the airplane," said the victim's brother, Nicolas Harrington. "He must of pulled some neck muscles or something because he's not really able to maneuver his head around."
Passengers said the bounce on the jetliner was "terrifying," and one said he thought he was going to die.
The plane diverted across the state of Florida to St. Pete/Clearwater Airport making an emergency landing shortly after 4 p.m. Monday. Passengers were held at the gate for several hours before being told they would have to spend the night.
"Thank goodness I'm on the ground now, that's the most important thing," said Adler. "It wasn't my day."
A spokeswoman for Allegiant Air says passengers will receive a travel voucher for future travel and will be put up overnight in local hotels before a new aircraft is flown in to take passengers on their way to Asheville Tuesday morning. Passengers will also have the option of flying back to Fort Lauderdale or a complete refund if they choose not to fly.