Pregnant passenger aboard Lufthansa flight that injured 7 describes 'Final Destination situation'

The passenger plane suffered a severe descent 37,000 feet above Tennessee.

March 2, 2023, 8:55 AM

Susan Zimmerman was in the middle of dinner service aboard Lufthansa Flight 469 when turbulence hit.

"It was all of a sudden we lifted up, and then we started dropping down really fast. It felt like about five seconds of free fall," she said.

The Germany-bound flight to Frankfurt landed at Virginia’s Dulles International Airport at 9:10 p.m. after the Airbus A330 experienced “severe turbulence” 37,000 feet above Tennessee, according to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration. Seven people aboard the flight were sent to the hospital after the incident.

A photo shows inside the cabin of Lufthansa flight 469 as the turbulence sends seven to hospital.
Courtesy of Ecaterina Fadhel

“While it was happening, the plates were up, and the ceiling glass was up in the ceiling,” Zimmerman said. “My bag was flown back behind me, and it was kind of like you’re in slow motion.”

According to Flight Aware, the flight descended roughly 10,000 feet over 10 minutes, including a one-minute, 1,000-foot drop at one point.

Zimmerman, who is pregnant, said in those intense moments, her mind went towards her unborn daughter and husband, thinking, “God, just let me out of this.”

“I'm five months pregnant, so I was honestly thinking I'm never going to meet my daughter,” she said. “I was trying to just keep myself calm so as to not put any further undue stress on her.”

After the sudden turbulence, she described the scene as if “a food fight had erupted in the plane,” with broken glassware, trays, and food everywhere following the disrupted dinner service.

She added that passengers toward the back of the plane appeared to be impacted by the turbulence more severely, as well as the flight crew who were in the middle of serving dinner.

She said the flight experienced intermittent turbulence after the main drop before stabilizing and eventually landing at Dulles.

“Once we were passed the storm, there was nothing else that we had to really worry about,” she said.

Once the turbulence subsided, the flight crew checked on the passengers multiple times, eventually carrying one injured woman to the front of the plane before landing, according to Zimmerman.

Roughly 15 paramedics were waiting at the jet bridge, according to Zimmerman. About six boarded the plane to assist the injured passengers before the passengers fully deplaned.

Wednesday’s incident follows a string of injuries related to flights that have hit severe turbulence.

On Dec. 18, 20 passengers were injured on a Hawaiian Airlines flight about 30 minutes from Honolulu. Seven suffered serious injuries. Five passengers were hospitalized the next day when a United Airlines flight to Houston hit turbulence. At least three passengers were injured on Feb. 9 when a United Airlines flight from Newark to Tampa hit turbulence.

“You think you're never going to be in a quote-unquote 'Final Destination' situation,” Zimmerman said. “And then here you are.”

ABC News' Lauren Minore and Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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