Continental Flight 128 Passengers Detail Terrifying Turbulence

Continental Flight 128 Passengers Detail Terrifying TurbulenceABC News
As Continental Flight 128 hit turbulence Monday, tossing people around the cabin like rag dolls, Carolina Portella grabbed the hand of her person next to her.

As Continental Flight 128 hit turbulence Monday, tossing people around the cabin like rag dolls, Carolina Portella grabbed the hand of the person next to her.

"I was like, 'Hold my hand,'" she said, "'because if we're going to die, I don't want to die alone. I'm so scared.'"

But no one has died from their injuries suffered on Monday's ill-fated flight, though one person has not yet been released from the hospital. Some people are calling their survival a miracle.

VIDEO: Passengers onboard Continental Flight 128 recount their terrifying trip.Play

More than two dozen people were injured when the Continental Airlines plane hit turbulence on its way to Houston from Brazil, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Miami.

Pictures from inside the cabin show evidence from the violent ride, including panels that were likely cracked by people's heads and oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.

"One lady, she just came out of her seat and flew over the middle row, hit her head on the wall, landed on her back," passenger Diego Saavedra said.

Officials said the plane hit the turbulence about six hours into the flight. The seat belt lights were on, but passengers said there was no warning.

"People can call it turbulence, they can call it anything they want," Fabio Ottolini said, "but to me the plane was just falling out of the sky."

Ottolini said it felt like the plane was in a free fall.

"I think we're talking about 300 feet, at least," he said.

Another passenger, Richard Sharp, helped tend to the injured.

"Some of them were unconscious for a short period of time," he said.

ABC News aviation consultant John Nance said turbulence is usually caused by a rising or descending column of air that pilots can't see. While planes are equipped with Doppler radar to track storms, he said, those systems can't track air molecules.

"It's like hitting a speed bump at 500 mph," Nance said. "It's very, very violent."

That said, the danger of turbulence breaking up a plane is "almost zero," he said.

"It's not that it scares us, but we want to give everyone a smooth ride," Nance said, "and we certainly don't want people thrown out of their seats."

Turbulent Summer Led to Injuries, Death

Turbulence, which experts said is the leading cause of injury in nonfatal crashes, has been a factor in several airline injuries and tragedies this summer from a Quantas flight in June over Malaysia where seven people were injured to the crash of Air France Flight 447 off the coast of Brazil.

In Monday's incident, Continental said in a statement that the flight, which was carrying 168 passengers and 11 crew members, landed at 5:35 a.m. ET, and 14 passengers were transported to area hospitals.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Boeing 767 experienced severe turbulence while climbing to 38,000 feet. The plane was on an overnight flight when the turbulence struck about halfway between Puerto Rico and Grand Turk island, north of the Dominican Republic, the FAA said. An emergency was declared and the plane diverted to Miami, which was about an hour away.

The cause of the turbulence is still under investigation, and FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Berger said it was too soon to tell what exactly happened. The aircraft will remain in Miami to be inspected, Berger told ABC News. She added that one or both of the black boxes as well as the flight data recorder will be examined for clues.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials told ABC News they used food service catering carts to take the injured off the plane.

In February, a Continental plane carrying 45 people crashed in Buffalo, New York, killing all on board.