Singapore Airlines: 1 dead, 30 injured after ‘severe turbulence’ rocks Boeing 777

Click to play video: 'Singapore Airlines CEO issues apology, passengers recount ‘traumatic’ turbulence incident'
Singapore Airlines CEO issues apology, passengers recount ‘traumatic’ turbulence incident
WATCH: Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong issued an apology on Tuesday, one day after a flight heading from London to Singapore encountered severe turbulence, injuring 30 passengers and killing a 73-year-old British man – May 22, 2024

At least one passenger is dead and dozens more are injured after a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore encountered “severe turbulence” and dropped thousands of feet in the air.

A passenger on board the flight said he saw people being launched into the ceiling of the Boeing 777, leaving dents in the overhead baggage holds after the plane suddenly dropped in altitude.

Photo from inside Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which experienced heavy turbulence, resulting in one passenger’s death. Global News

Singapore Airlines confirmed that there were “injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER,” and offered its “deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” in a statement posted to Facebook.

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The person who died was a 73-year-old British man who had a heart condition and may have suffered a heart attack, authorities said, though this cause of death has not been confirmed. The man’s identity has not been officially released.

The Times of London reports the man to be 73-year-old Geoffrey Kitchen, an actor and theatre director from the Bristol area.

In an updated statement Tuesday, Singapore Airlines shared that 18 passengers were hospitalized and 12 more were being treated on an outpatient basis. There were 211 passengers — including two Canadians — and 18 crew members on the flight. The status and identity of the Canadian passengers is not publicly known at this juncture.

“The remaining passengers and crew are being examined and given treatment, where necessary,” Singapore Airlines said.

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The flight was diverted to Bangkok and landed at around 3:45 p.m. local time on Tuesday. The airline said it is working with local authorities in Thailand to provide medical assistance.

Passengers of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 being stretchered away by emergency responders. Global News

Tracking data captured by FlightRadar24 and analyzed by The Associated Press showed the Singapore Airlines flight cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet (11,300 metres). Just after 8 a.m. GMT, the Boeing 777 suddenly pitched down to 31,000 feet (9,400 metres) over the span of three minutes, the data suggests.

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A 28-year-old student who was on board the flight told Reuters that the plane experienced a “dramatic drop” and passengers who weren’t wearing seatbelts were flung into the ceiling.

“Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling,” Dzafran Azmir said. “Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented them. They hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through.”

Flight tracking data showed that after the sudden drop in altitude, the aircraft stayed at 31,000 feet (9,400 metres) for just under 10 minutes before rapidly descending and landing in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in just under half an hour. The descent happened as the flight was over the Andaman Sea approaching Myanmar.

The general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport gave a press conference Tuesday and shared that the flight encountered turbulence during a meal service, “about two to three hours before the flight was due to land in Singapore,” said Kittipong Kittikachorn, as quoted by The Guardian.

The wife of the man who died in the incident has been hospitalized, Kittikachorn said. Seven of the people who were hospitalized suffered critical head injuries.

“There were lots of passengers who couldn’t walk and we rescued them from the plane,” Kittikachorn added.

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Airport officials believe the plane fell into a “severe” air pocket, which caused the turbulence, though investigations are ongoing.

“About 100 out of the roughly 200 passengers will be ready to travel on to Singapore tonight. They are having dinner now and Thai Airways will take them the rest of the way later,” Kittikachorn said.

Boeing released a brief statement on the incident, stating that it is in contact with Singapore Airlines and the company is on standby “ready to support them.”

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one, and our thoughts are with the passengers and crew.”

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The nationalities of the passengers who were on the flight are as follows, according to Singapore Airlines: “56 from Australia, 2 from Canada, 1 from Germany, 3 from India, 2 from Indonesia, 1 from Iceland, 4 from Ireland, 1 from Israel, 16 from Malaysia, 2 from Myanmar, 23 from New Zealand, 5 from the Philippines, 41 from Singapore, 1 from South Korea, 2 from Spain, 47 from the United Kingdom, and 4 from the United States of America.”

— With files from The Associated Press

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