Five Ram players were among 202 passengers aboard an Air Jamaica charter that experienced severe turbulence over the Atlantic Ocean Saturday on a flight from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to Los Angeles.
Eleven people were injured after the DC-8 dropped an estimated 400 feet after hitting an updraft about an hour after departure. None of the Rams were seriously hurt.
Kicker Mike Lansford, linebacker Kevin Greene, receiver Henry Ellard, fullback Buford McGee and tackle Irv Pankey were returning from Jamaica after filming a promotional event for CBS Sports called “Best of the Beach,” a team superstars competition.
McGee reportedly suffered minor scrapes and bruises on his shins, but did not require medical treatment. Still, the experience is one the players won’t soon forget.
“It didn’t feel like regular turbulence,” said Pankey, a 10-year veteran. “It felt like the engines cut off. It dropped so much it felt like the plane was falling out of the sky.”
The plane, which was chartered by Air Jamaica from Hawaiian Airlines, arrived safely at Los Angeles International Airport at 2:28 p.m. Nine passengers and one flight attendant remained on board Jamaica Air Flight 55 and were treated by paramedics and then released. Another flight attendant was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center for injuries suffered when he slammed into the ceiling of the plane’s cabin during the turbulence.
Teresa Lansford, who made the trip with her husband, Mike, described the incident as the longest 10 seconds of her life.
“It was like an earthquake,” she said. “If you weren’t wearing seat belts, you flew.”
Pankey said he remembers staring at his wife, Kelly, during the turbulence and wondering if their lives were over.
“It makes makes you think about a whole lot of things quick,” Pankey said. “When we fell, I said, ‘Is this thing going to start back up or what?’ For a few seconds, you honestly thought that this was it. It all happened within a few seconds. But you think about everything, your kids . . . everything. It was spooky.”
Susan Sunderland, vice president of Corporate Communications for Hawaiian Airlines, said Monday the airline was making follow-up phone calls to check on the condition of all passengers on the flight.