A Qatar Airways flight that departed Dulles International Airport on Sunday made an emergency landing on an island off the Portuguese mainland today, according to passengers and a flight-tracking website.
The flight, which was headed for Doha, landed at Lajes Air Base in Azores, Portugal, four hours and 58 minutes after takeoff, according to Flight Aware. Passengers said the landing was prompted by severe turbulence over the Atlantic.
"It was like the (Drop Tower) ride at Kings Dominion," said Raseel Mohamed, 39, of Herndon, Virginia, who was aboard the plane. "The bottom fell out."
Qatar Airways could not immediately be reached for comment, but the airline said in tweets it had dispatched another airplane to the island. A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said the agency would not be informed about any issues that occurred on board the plane following departure.
Mohamed, who was sitting in an aisle seat next to his wife and 6-year-old son, said the severe turbulence lasted about three minutes, tossing passengers around the cabin and wounding several. He said they had just buckled their seatbelts when they felt a severe jolt.
All of a sudden, he said, heads slammed into the cabin ceiling and overhead bins. A man in front of him hit his head on the ceiling and three women in the adjacent rows hit the overhead bins. One woman, who he described as in her 50s or 60s, hit the floor and couldn't get up on her own. As the plane rocked, he said, he pulled her up by her arm and pushed her back into her seat. One passenger began reciting prayers aloud, Mohamed said.
"When everything died down, then we stated hearing people moan cause it hurt. Initially it was just screams then it's like moaning," Mohamed said.
One white-haired woman hit the crown of her head on an overhead bin and suffered what seemed like an inch-an-a-half long cut, the software engineer said.
"I saw the poor air hostess trying to keep ice on her, keep her calm," he said.
The mother of a Washington Post employee was also among the passengers.
She said in text messages passengers suffered bruises and more serious injuries; passengers gathered around a man who was believed to have suffered a heart attack, according to the woman's text messages and a separate account from Mohamed. She said passengers had to exit the plane, and would probably remain on the island for a day as they awaited another aircraft from Doha.
The airline said in tweets it had dispatched a plane to Azores, and was securing hotels and visas for passengers who needed them.
There also were reports that passengers were struggling to find food and lodging. Mohamed said because an airport vendor did not accept credit cards, travellers who weren't carrying cash couldn't feed themselves and their families.
Visas were a separate issue. Customers said American and European travellers were given priority to obtain visas, followed by families of other nationalities with children, then finally solo travellers - some of whom had suffered injuries.
"The elderly people, they are the ones who suffered the most," Mohamed said.