Singapore Airlines Flight Turbulence: One Dead, 30 Injured

Singapore Airlines Flight Turbulence: One Dead, 30 Injured

The interior of Flight SQ321 after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on May 21. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight from London’s Heathrow Airport to Singapore encountered severe turbulence, resulting in one passenger’s death and injuries to 30 others. The aircraft was diverted to Bangkok, where it made an emergency landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 3:45 pm.

According to a Facebook post by SIA, 18 passengers have been hospitalized, while another 12 are receiving treatment for their injuries. There were 211 passengers and 18 crew members on Flight SQ321. Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport, confirmed that a 73-year-old British passenger died on the flight, likely due to a heart attack.

SIA has dispatched 50 staff members to Bangkok to assist the affected passengers. The remaining passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are being examined and treated at the airport. SIA is also collaborating with local authorities in Thailand to provide necessary medical assistance and sending a team to Bangkok for additional help.

Reuters reported that the aircraft dropped sharply from an altitude of about 37,000 feet to 31,000 feet within just five minutes as it neared Thailand. Passengers who were not wearing their seatbelts were thrown upwards, with some hitting the overhead baggage cabins. Images and videos circulating online show patches of blood on the cabin floor and debris strewn around.

Malaysian student Dzafran Azmir, who was on the flight, said he had an uneasy feeling when the plane started tilting upwards and shaking. He noticed that many passengers were not wearing their seatbelts. The sudden drop caused those not seated to be launched into the ceiling, resulting in injuries.

Andrew Davies, another passenger, said the man who died was flying with his wife. Many others were injured, with some suffering head lacerations and bleeding ears. Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat expressed his condolences to the dead passenger’s family and said that the Transport and Foreign Affairs ministries, along with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Changi Airport officials, and SIA staff, are providing support to the affected passengers and their families.

The Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) is investigating the incident. TSIB is in touch with its Thai counterparts and will be deploying investigators to Bangkok. Chow Kok Wah, a former airline executive, said severe turbulence is very rare. Such incidents are usually not fatal if passengers and cabin crew are seated and properly belted up. Modern jet planes are designed to handle all types of turbulence, but “clear air turbulence” can occur suddenly and is not detectable by radar.

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