Shaken passengers arrive in Singapore after deadly turbulence-stricken flight

Reuters
More than 140 passengers and crew from a Singapore Airlines flight hit by heavy turbulence that left dozens injured and one dead finally reached Singapore Wednesday morning.
Reuters
Shaken passengers arrive in Singapore after deadly turbulence-stricken flight
Reuters

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 21, 2024.

More than 140 passengers and crew from a Singapore Airlines flight hit by heavy turbulence that left dozens injured and one dead finally reached Singapore on a relief flight Wednesday morning after an emergency landing in Bangkok.

The scheduled London-Singapore flight on a Boeing 777-300ER plane diverted to Bangkok after the plane was buffeted by turbulence that flung passengers and crew around the cabin, slamming some into the ceiling.

A 73-year-old British passenger died of a suspected heart attack, and at least 30 people were injured.

"I saw people from across the aisle going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in like really awkward positions. People, like, getting massive gashes in the head, concussions," Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student onboard the flight, told Reuters after arriving in Singapore.

Photographs from the interior of the plane showed gashes in the overhead cabin panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling and luggage strewn around. A passenger said some people's heads had slammed into the lights above the seats and broken the panels.

Singapore Airlines took 131 passengers and 12 crew on the relief flight from Bangkok, which reached Singapore just before 5am (9pm GMT). There were 211 passengers including many Australians, British and Singaporeans, and 18 crew onboard the original flight; injured fliers and their families remained in Bangkok.

"On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased," Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said in a video message.

Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) is looking into the incident, and the US National Transportation Safety Board is also sending representatives for support.

The plane encountered sudden extreme turbulence, Goh said, and the pilot then declared a medical emergency and diverted to Bangkok.

Aircraft tracking provider FlightRadar 24 said at about 7:49am GMT the flight encountered "a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event," based on flight tracking data.

"There were thunderstorms, some severe, in the area at the time," it said.

Weather forecasting service AccuWeather on Tuesday said rapidly developing, explosive thunderstorms near the flight path of Flight 321 most likely contributed to violent turbulence.

"Developing thunderstorms often have strong updrafts, a zone of upward moving air, that rises very rapidly, sometimes at more than 100 mph, and can leave pilots will little time to react if it occurs directly in front of the plane," said Dan DePodwin, AccuWeather’s senior director of Forecasting Operations.

The sudden turbulence occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar, about 10 hours into the flight, Singapore Airlines said.


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