MIAMI – More than two dozen people were hurt when a Continental Airlines jet hit turbulence on a flight from Brazil to Texas, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Miami early Monday, officials said.
Nine passengers were transported to area hospitals and approximately 28 passengers were treated at the scene, Continental said in a statement.
"It was like nothing I've ever experienced before," passenger Richard Sharp told FOX News. "I've never seen anything like that before."
Sharp, who was wearing his seatbelt, was not injured, but others were not as lucky.
"A lot of people didn't fasten their seatbelts and didn't have time to react," he said. "There were several people thrown about the cabin. An elderly lady leaving the [bathroom] had a cart fall on her. People went through the overhead panel that houses the air vents and air masks."
He said many of those injured were not wearing their seatbelt, despite the "fasten seatbelt" light being lit for about an hour prior to the turbulence.
Continental Flight 128 was traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Houston with 168 people on board when it was diverted, Miami International Airport spokesman Marc Henderson says.
There were 11 crew members aboard.
Sharp said the incident lasted for about 10 seconds and consisted of the plane going, "up and down in a vertical motion."
He told FOX News the flight's crew, "did an excellent job" and was very professional.
Passenger Fabio Ottolini of Houston said it was about 6 hours into the flight when he felt the aircraft suddenly drop. "People didn't have time to do anything," he said.
Ottolini said flight attendents were serving items in the aisles when the turbulence hit. He said some flight attendenats were thrown against the roof of the cabin and may have been among those injured.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says the plane landed safely at 5:30 a.m. The plane reported hitting severe turbulence at 4:30 a.m.
"Continental's priority at this time is to assist the customers and their families with their needs," the airlines said in a statement.
Those not seriously injured would be flown on to Houston, the airport spokesman said.
Carolina Portella told FOX News she felt like she was on a roller coaster.
"It was so sudden. The plane just dropped," said Portella. "I thought it was a dropping to the ground. I saw a bunch of people flying out of their seats."
Portella said her first thought was engine failure, but quickly new that wasn't the case, because the lights were still on.
"it must have been 10 to 15 seconds, but it was enough time for me to think about my family and my boyfriend," she told FOX.
Henderson said the plane was scheduled to return to Houston, though he did not know what time.
Airport officials say some passengers were going on to Houston on various Continental flights about midday. He did not know when the remaining passengers would be expected to arrive in Houston.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.