For about nine hours, Sead Nikaj’s flight back home to New York from Istanbul was smooth. Mr. Nikaj said he was returning from a trip to Albania, where his parents live. He said that when the plane went through a small patch of turbulence about 40 minutes before landing, passengers were directed to put on their seatbelts.
But as the plane was crossing over Maine on Saturday, it hit a patch of severe turbulence, he said. Mr. Nikaj said he watched the woman next to him fly out of her seat. Oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. People banged their heads, screamed and prayed.
For about 10 to 15 minutes — but what felt like an eternity to Mr. Nikaj — he thought he was going to die.
“I said, ‘God help me,’” he said.
Then a second, larger burst of turbulence seemed to come out of nowhere.
“It was crazy, really crazy,” Mr. Nikaj said. “All that time, people are screaming, people are praying. It was like something that I never experienced.”
The pilot then announced everything was under control, and 10 minutes later, the plane landed, Mr. Nikaj said.
“Until we parked it, I couldn’t believe we were alive,” he said.
The Turkish Airlines plane landed safely at Kennedy Airport, but at least 30 people were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries because of the turbulence, the authorities said.