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The Boeing 787 that suddenly dropped mid-flight and injured at least 50 people is a stark reminder: Always wear your seatbelt.

A man pulling his seatbelt tight on an airplane.
The Latam plane that plunged midair is a reminder to always wear your seatbelt when flying.ATHVisions/Getty Images

A passenger on the Boeing 787 that suddenly dropped midair over the Pacific on Monday described a scary scene.

In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Latam Airlines Flight 800 passenger Brian Jokat said the plane "dropped something to the effect of 500 feet instantly," jolting him awake. The jet was flying from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand.


"That's when I opened my eyes, and there was various individuals at the top of the plane. Just stuck to the roof, and then they fell to the floor," he said. "And then I just realized I'm not in a movie. This is actually for real."

Another passenger told CNN affiliate RNZ that there was "blood on the ceiling."

At least 50 people were injured during the ordeal, according to the New Zealand Herald. Few details have emerged, but the 787's pilot reportedly told Jokat the plunge was due to an aircraft malfunction, explaining that the gauges "went blank on me" and caused him to temporarily lose control of the plane.

Latam has so far described the cause as a "technical event," and is investigating. Although turbulence is a common reason for these extreme aircraft movements, it may or may not be the culprit this time, given the pilot's comments.

Regardless of the cause for the sudden free fall, the Latam event is a stark reminder that every passenger should buckle up when flying — whether the seatbelt sign is on or not.

According to a 2021 report from the US National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence-related injuries are the most common safety incidents on airlines and include everything from broken bones and second- and third-degree burns to spinal damage and head injuries.

Crew members make up nearly 80% of the 163 serious turbulence-related injuries between 2009 and 2022, NTSB data shows, while passengers make up the remaining 20% — most of whom were not wearing their seatbelts, according to the agency's report.

Airlines make the risk of injury due to sudden aircraft movements very clear during their pre-departure safety demonstration and inflight announcements — but some passengers still ignore the warning. And Latam is not the only example.

In March 2023, a Lufthansa Airbus A330 experienced "significant turbulence" after takeoff from Austin and had to divert to Washington, DC, hospitalizing seven people. In a statement to The Washington Post, a passenger described the scene as food and people "flying into the air."

The inside of the plane after Lufthansa Flight 469 hit "severe turbulence" en route to Frankfurt, Germany.
Inside the plane after Lufthansa Flight 469 hit "severe turbulence" en route to Frankfurt last year.Dr. Rolanda Schmidt

A few months later, in July, three people were hospitalized on a Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330 that "dropped" suddenly halfway through its 11-hour trek from Honolulu to Sydney.

Passenger Melissa Matteso told The Sydney Morning Herald that one passenger, who wasn't wearing their seatbelt, almost "hit the roof" before her husband pulled her back down.

Another Hawaiian flight in December 2022 hit a "rare" air pocket that left 36 people injured, some of whom hit the ceiling. The "fasten seatbelt" sign was on at the time, airline Chief Operating Officer Jon Snook said, HawaiiNewsNow reported.

Turbulence also led to the hospitalization of nearly a dozen people on a Delta Air Lines jet in August 2023, with several reporting head injuries. Meanwhile, a Norwegian Air Shuttle flight attendant suffered a broken ankle during turbulence in October 2022.

Seatbelts are important in even events that aren't turbulence-related. For example, the teen whose shirt got sucked off during the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max blowout can likely thank his seatbelt for holding him in place.

While understandably traumatizing for passengers and flight attendants, these injuries — which can often be severe — can be largely avoided by simply using a seatbelt.

The NTSB concluded in its 2021 report that the simple act of wearing a seatbelt "reduces the risk of serious injury for all aircraft occupants during turbulence-related accidents" on commercial airlines.

"Turbulence is tricky — sometimes turbulence can come out of the blue," Bill Duncan, the aviation forecast operations leader at The Weather Company, told BI in November. "And you never know what kind of shear that aircraft will go through."

At the end of the day, treat your flight like a car ride and buckle up when seated — your safety is worth having a strap across your lap.

Taylor Rains is an aviation-focused reporter at Business Insider. She has a bachelor's degree in aviation management. Before moving to journalism, she held roles in airline safety departments, including Allegiant Air.

Read the original article on Business Insider