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1 dead, 30 injured after severe turbulence on London-Singapore SIA flight

1 dead, 30 injured after severe turbulence on London-Singapore SIA flight
Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 made an emergency landing in Bangkok on May 21 after experiencing severe turbulence en-route from London to Singapore.
PHOTO: X/tinchok555

[UPDATED, 9.30pm]

Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, said at a press conference that a 73-year-old British passenger died on flight SQ321.

He likely died of a heart attack, the airport chief said, reported The Straits Times. His wife was also taken to the hospital.

He had been named by the British media outlets as Geoffrey Kitchen, originally from Bristol, England.

His daughter Anna Proctor paid tribute to her father and told The Telegraph that he was an "extremely kind, loving and gentle man".

"[He was] a wonderful man and he had years ahead of him and obviously we are completely devastated," she said. "He was a legend, he was."

Kittipong said dozens were hurt in the incident and seven of them critically injured. Nine crew members were also taken to the hospital.

He added that Thai authorities will co-operate with the Singapore team to transfer the affected passengers back home.

However, some passengers have said they would like to stay in Bangkok to look after family members who are injured.

A passenger on board a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight died after the plane encountered severe turbulence en-route from London to Singapore.

Thirty passengers were injured, according to Thai media reports.

In a Facebook post on May 21, SIA said the aircraft, SQ321, made an emergency landing in Bangkok at 3.45pm.

There were 211 passengers and 18 crew members on the Boeing 777-300ER.

In an updated post at 8pm, SIA said 18 people have been hospitalised and another 12 are being treated in hospitals.

The remaining passengers and crew are being examined and given treatment, where necessary, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

"Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased," SIA said in its earlier post.

The national carrier added: "Our priority is to provide all possible assistance to all passengers and crew on board the aircraft.

"We are working with the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary medical assistance and sending a team to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed."

'Greatly saddened by the loss of life'

In a Facebook post, Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said he is "deeply saddened" about the incident. 

He added that the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, as well as Changi Airport officials and SIA staff are providing support to the affected passengers and their families.

President Tharman Shanmugaratnam also gave his condolences on Facebook.

“We must hope and pray that the passengers or crew members who were injured are able to recover smoothly," he said.

Turbulence started with little warning

After around 11 hours of flying time from takeoff in London, the aircraft sharply dropped from an altitude of around 37,000 feet to 31,000 feet within five minutes as it finished traversing the Andaman Sea and neared Thailand, according to Flightradar24 data as reported by Reuters. 

In a post on X, a passenger who was on the flight, Andrew Davies said there was “very little warning” before the turbulence started.

“The seatbelt sign came on, I put on my seatbelt straightaway, then the plane just dropped,” he recounted.

“People’s belongings scattered, coffee and water splattered the ceiling. Surreal. So many injured people. Head lacerations, bleeding ears. A lady was screaming in pain with a bad back. I couldn’t help her — just got her water.”

Davies also claimed that it was a male passenger who died, and that the latter was flying with his wife.

“Lesson is — wear a seatbelt at all times,” he added in another comment. “Anyone who is injured, was not wearing a seatbelt. People who kept them on (including me) are not, as far as I could tell.” 

Another passenger also told Reuters that turbulence led to those not wearing seatbelts hitting overhead cabins.

"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," said Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student.

"Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it."

Last fatal incident involving SIA flight in 2000

According to a CNBC report, the Aviation Safety Network has recorded seven incidents for Singapore Airlines, last logging fatalities for a flight in October 2000.

The flight SQ006, bound for Los Angeles, crashed into construction equipment on a closed runway during takeoff at Taoyuan International Airport — after the pilots took the wrong turn amid stormy weather.

The plane crashed back to ground and broke into pieces, killing 83 of the 179 on board, reported The Straits Times in a 2016 article.

This is a developing story.

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