The pilot of a Hawaiian Airlines flight that resulted in dozens of passengers being injured said a plume-like cloud "shot" in front of the plane just prior to it experiencing severe turbulence, federal officials announced on Friday (January 13) via NBC News.
The incident took place during a flight from Phoenix to Honolulu on December 18.
The pilot said conditions were smooth and an on-board radar showed no turbulence when the plane was traveling between 37,000 and 38,000 feet, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report obtained by NBC News.
The pilot then claimed that just as the flight was 40 minutes from landing, a “cloud shot up vertically (like a smoke plume) in front of the airplane in a matter of seconds, and there was not enough time to deviate,” at around 10:00 a.m., according to the report.
The pilot said he notified the lead flight attendant about the incoming weather conditions and, within seconds from their interaction, the plane plowed through what was described as "severely convectively induced turbulence."
"Shortly after the turbulence-related upset, the lead flight attendant informed the flight crew that there were multiple injuries in the cabin," the report stated via NBC News.
At least 36 passengers were reported to be injured in relation to the incident.
Twenty passengers were reported to be taken to emergency rooms, which included 11 reported to be in serious condition, as well as a 14-month-old child, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services confirmed in a statement obtained by CNN at the time.
Honolulu EMS said the reported injuries include a serious head injury, lacerations, bruising and loss of consciousness.
Videos shared online showed several passengers with visible injuries as the flight continued, as well as some being transported to the hospital on stretchers.
"HA35 from PHX to HNL encountered severe turbulence & landed safely in HNL at 10:50 a.m. today," the airline tweeted on Sunday. "Medical care was provided to several guests & crewmembers at the airport for minor injuries while some were swiftly transported to local hospitals for further care.
"We are supporting all affected passengers & employees and are continuing to monitor the situation."
The Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35, which is an Airbus 330, was carrying 278 passengers and 10 crew members.
Honolulu EMS and the American Medical Response received a report of a "mass casualty emergency" at the time of the incident.