Thirty-six people suffered broken bones and other injuries when a Qantas plane carrying more than 300 passengers was involved in a “mid-air incident” and was forced to make an emergency landing in Western Australia Tuesday, the Times of London reported.
Crew members issued a “mayday” call and the pilot diverted the aircraft when a sudden change of altitude caused problems while the Airbus A330-300 was traveling in what is known as “level flight.”
The plane, carrying 303 passengers and 10 crew members, was traveling from Singapore to Perth in Western Australia when it was forced to land at Learmonth airport near the remote coastal town of Exmouth, 745 miles north of Perth at 1:45 p.m. local time.
About 15 of the passengers were listed as having serious injuries. A spokesman for Western Australia Police told Times Online that the injured passengers, most of whom were at the rear of the plane, were treated by nurses at the scene and would then be transferred to a local hospital.
Qantas said the problem was related to “a sudden change in altitude” but no details are yet available as to what caused the altitude change.
“A number of passengers and crew sustained injuries, including fractures and lacerations, on board QF72 this afternoon en route from Singapore to Perth following a sudden change in altitude," Qantas said.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service was preparing to send up to four planes to Exmouth to fly the most seriously injured to Perth, but RFDS public affairs director Lesleigh Green told the Australian Associated Press that none of the passengers' injuries was thought to be life threatening.
Learmonth airport has only one runway, about 10,000-feet long, and is used mainly by oil and gas companies.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said it is sending seven investigators to Learmonth airport to begin their investigations, which will continue on Wednesday.
The emergency landing is the latest in a string of incidents involving Qantas planes this year. In one, a plane traveling from London to Melbourne made an emergency landing in the Philippines after a gas cylinder exploded on board, blowing a hole in the fuselage.