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A passenger, center, arrives from Bangkok at a Singapore airport Alamy
flight SQ321

'I saw people across the aisle going completely horizontal': Passengers on turbulent Singapore flight

Four Irish people were on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London to Singapore, which hit “sudden extreme turbulence” over Myanmar.

SOME 20 PEOPLE are in intensive care in Bangkok hospitals today after a terrifying high-altitude plunge on a flight from London during which killed an elderly passenger and injured more than 100 others.

Four Irish people were on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, which hit “sudden extreme turbulence” over Myanmar 10 hours into its journey to Singapore yesterday, abruptly rising and plunging several times.

One passenger said people were thrown around the cabin so violently they put dents in the ceiling, resulting in head injuries.

Photos from inside the plane show the cabin in chaos, strewn with food, drinks bottles and luggage, and with oxygen masks dangling from the ceiling.

The plane, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew, made an emergency landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where medical staff used gurneys to ferry the injured to ambulances waiting on the tarmac.

ambulances-wait-to-carry-passengers-from-a-london-singapore-flight-that-encountered-severe-turbulence-in-bangkok-thailand-tuesday-may-21-2024-the-plane-apparently-plummeted-for-a-number-of-minut Ambulances waited in Bangkok to carry injured passengers from the airport to hospital Alamy Alamy

‘No seatbelt signs’

Dzafran Azmir, who was on board, told Nine News in Australia that the turbulence occurred “within the span of less than 10 seconds” – “which is why I think nobody could really respond to it”.

Azmir was seated and wearing his seatbelt when the turbulence began.

The plane started shaking … it kept getting worse and worse.

“I saw people across the aisle just going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down,” he said.

“The seatbelt signs were not on.”

A hospital in Bangkok has said its staff are treating, or had treated 85 of those injured, including 20 people who were currently in intensive care units.

‘No warning’

Andrew Davies, a British passenger aboard the Boeing 777-300ER, told the BBC that it was the worst day of his life.

“Things were going very smooth at first. I just went to the loo, came back, I sat down, bit of turbulence, and suddenly the plane plunged.

There was no warning at all.

He said he and his wife hit their heads on the ceiling, while others who were walking around “ended up doing a somersault”.

“The staff did their best to attend to the injured people – there were a lot of them – and some of the staff were injured themselves.”

The pilot diverted to Bangkok, where passengers were met by “swarms of medical teams”.

Davies and his wife were en route to their son’s wedding, which they’d planned to take five more flights to get to. Due to their bad experience, they’re now going to fly home directly.

Allison Barker told the BBC her son Josh, who was aboard the plane, texted her that he was on “a crazy flight” that was making an emergency landing.

“It was terrifying,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know whether he’d survived, it was so nerve-racking. It was the longest two hours of my life.”

The 20 people in intensive care are from Australia, Britain, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines, Samitivej hospital said, without specifying how many were passengers or crew.

Multi-country coordination

In his latest update, Peter Seah, Chairman of Singapore Airlines said he is “committed to supporting” passengers and staff.

“I also wish to express my gratitude to everyone in Singapore, Thailand, and around the world who are assisting those affected by this incident.”

In a Facebook post, Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong sent his “deepest condolences” to the family and loved ones of the dead man – identified as Geoff Kitchen, a musical theatre director from near Bristol.

The city-state is sending investigators to Bangkok to probe the incident and Wong says they’re also “working closely with Thai authorities”.

Scientists have long warned that climate change is likely to increase so-called clear air turbulence, which is invisible to radar.

A 2023 study found the annual duration of clear air turbulence increased by 17% from 1979 to 2020, with the most severe cases increasing more than 50 percent.

With reporting by © AFP 2024

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