British man dies and several passengers are injured when turbulence hits a Singapore Airlines flight

Elderly British man died and more than two dozen passengers injured when a Singapore Airlines flight from London struck by severe turbulence and plunged 6,000 feet in the span of a few minutes over the Indian Ocean.
British man dies and several passengers are injured when turbulence hits a Singapore Airlines flight

Bangkok | A Singapore Airlines flight hit severe turbulence over the Indian Ocean and descended 6,000 feet (around 1,800 meters) in a span of about three minutes, the carrier said Tuesday, leaving a British man dead and more than two dozen other passengers injured.

The flight was then diverted and landed in stormy weather in Bangkok.

Authorities said the 73-year-old British man may have suffered a heart attack, though that hasn't been confirmed. His name wasn't immediately released.

The Boeing 777 flight from London's Heathrow airport to Singapore, with 211 passengers and 18 crew members aboard, landed at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airline said in a Facebook post.

British passenger Andrew Davies told Sky News that “anyone who had a seatbelt on isn't injured."

He said that the seatbelt sign was illuminated, but crew members didn't have time to take their seats.

"Every single cabin crew person I saw was injured in some way or another, maybe with a gash on their head," Davies said. "One had a bad back, who was in obvious pain.”

Emergency medical crews rushed to help the passengers. Videos posted on the LINE messaging platform by Suvarnabhumi Airport showed a line of ambulances streaming to the scene.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport, told a news conference on Tuesday night that the British man appeared to have suffered a heart attack, but medical authorities would need to confirm that.

He said that seven passengers were severely injured, and 23 passengers and nine crew members had what he described as moderate injuries. Sixteen other people with less serious injuries received hospital treatment, while another 14 were treated at the airport, according to Kittipong.

Kittipong said the sudden descent happened as passengers were being served their food. It was Suvarnabhumi Airport's first time handling a midair turbulence related death, he added.

Thai airport authorities said that the passengers with minor injures, and those who are not injured, are being assisted at a specially assigned location inside the airport terminal.

Thailand's transport minister, Suriya Jungrungruangkit, said Singapore was dispatching another plane to transport those who could travel to the city-state's Changi airport.

Tracking data captured by FlightRadar24 and analyzed by The Associated Press show the Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet (11,300 meters).

At one point, the Boeing 777-300ER suddenly and sharply descends to 31,000 feet (9,400 meters) over the span of about three minutes, according to the data. The aircraft then stayed at 31,000 feet (9,400 meters) for under 10 minutes before diverting and landing in Bangkok less than a half-hour later.

The sharp descent in turbulence happened as the flight was over the Andaman Sea, near Myanmar. The aircraft sent a “squawk code” of 7700 at that time, an international emergency signal.

Details of the weather at the time weren't immediately revealed.

Most people associate turbulence with heavy storms. But the most dangerous type is so-called clear air turbulence. Wind shear can occur in wispy cirrus clouds or even in clear air near thunderstorms, as differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

The problem of turbulence was highlighted last December, when a total of 41 people on two separate flights hit by turbulence in the United States were hurt or received medical treatment on two consecutive days.

According to a 2021 report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence accounted for 37.6% of all accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration, another U.S. government agency, said after the December incidents that there were 146 serious injuries from turbulence from 2009 to 2021.

Boeing, the maker of the Singapore Airlines plane that ran into turbulence , extended condolences to the family of the dead man and said it was “in contact with Singapore Airlines regarding flight SQ321 and stand ready to support them.”

The widebody Boeing 777 is a workhorse of the aviation industry, used mainly for long-haul flights by airlines around the world.

The 777-300ER variant of the twin-engine, two-aisle plane is larger and can carry more passengers than earlier models.

Singapore Airlines, the city-state's flag carrier, operates 22 of the aircraft as part of its fleet of more than 140 planes. The airline's parent company is majority owned by Singapore's Temasek government investment conglomerate, and also operates the budget airline Scoot.

Singapore Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat also extended condolences on his Facebook page. He said that his ministry and Singapore's Foreign Ministry, as well as the country's Civil Aviation Authority and Changi Airport officials, along with airline staff, “are providing support to the affected passengers and their families.”

The Transport Safety Investigation Bureau of the ministry said that it's investigating the incident and is in touch with its Thai counterpart and will be deploying investigators to Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines said that the nationalities of the passengers are: 56 Australians, two Canadians, one German, three Indians, two Indonesians, one from Iceland, four from Ireland, one Israeli, 16 Malaysians, two from Myanmar, 23 from New Zealand, five Filipinos, 41 from Singapore, one South Korean, two Spaniards, 47 from the United Kingdom and four from the United States.

3 Indians among passengers aboard Singapore Airlines flight hit by 'sudden extreme turbulence'

Singapore/Bangkok | There were at least three Indian nationals among the 229 people aboard the Singapore Airlines flight that encountered a "sudden extreme turbulence" over the Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet, the flag carrier of Singapore said on Tuesday.

The traumatic incident in which the aircraft descended 6,000 feet in about three minutes, left a 73-year-old British man dead and more than two dozen other passengers injured.

The British man, who was not yet identified, "likely" died from a heart attack, the General Manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport Kittipong Kittikachorn said.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight SQ321, operating from London (Heathrow) to Singapore on May 20 encountered "sudden extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet about 10 hours after departure," the carrier said.

The pilot declared a medical emergency and diverted the aircraft to Bangkok, and landed on May 21. "We can confirm that there were multiple injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft," the carrier said in a Facebook post.

A total of 18 individuals had been hospitalised. Another 12 were being treated in hospitals. The remaining passengers and crew were being examined and given treatment, where necessary, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Singapore Airlines said.

There were a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board, it said.

The nationalities of the passengers are as follows: 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.

Authorities have not released details of the injured passengers and crew or their nationalities.

"Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight.

"We are providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time. We are working with our colleagues and the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary assistance," it said.

Singapore Airlines was using a 16-year-old 777 model for the SQ321 service hit by severe turbulence.

A Singapore Airlines team is on its way to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed. SIA is working with the relevant authorities on the investigation into this incident.

Relatives seeking information may call the Singapore Airlines hotlines at +65 6542 3311 (Singapore), 1800-845-313 (Australia), and 080-0066-8194 (the United Kingdom), the carrier said.

Singapore's new Prime Minister Lawrence Wong extended his condolences to “family members and loved ones of the deceased.”

“Unfortunately, we are marking Vesak Day this year with news of the incident on the SQ321 flight earlier today. We are all saddened and shocked by what happened,” he said in a Facebook post.

He added that Singapore is working closely with the Thai authorities and “doing everything we can to support the passengers and crew”.

“We pray for their safe return and smooth recovery for those who are injured. We are still getting more information from Bangkok and will provide further updates in due course,” he said.

US aircraft manufacturer Boeing extended its condolences to the family of the British man who died aboard SQ321, a Boeing 777-300ER.

“We are in contact with Singapore Airlines regarding flight SQ321 and stand ready to support them,” Boeing said on X.

With light and moderate turbulence passengers might feel a strain against their seatbelt, and unsecured items could move around the cabin. But in severe cases turbulence can throw passengers around the cabin, causing severe injuries and occasionally death, CNN reported.

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