Inside Plane Hit by Scary Turbulence: 'A Mess'

Passenger who died was 73-year-old Brit, while 30 others aboard the flight were injured
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2024 12:23 PM CDT
Details Emerge on Flight Hit by Rare Fatal Turbulence
Ambulances are seen at the airport where a London-Singapore flight that encountered severe turbulence was diverted to Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The plane plummeted for a number of minutes before it was diverted to Bangkok, where emergency crews rushed to help injured passengers.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The passenger who died aboard a Singapore Airlines flight out of London's Heathrow Airport that ran into heavy turbulence was a 73-year-old British man, reports the Guardian. The unidentified passenger reportedly had a heart condition, and his cause of death is thought to be a heart attack, but details are still clarifying about the London-to-Singapore flight that aborted in Bangkok:

  • The injured: Seven people were in critical condition, mostly from head injuries, and another 23 suffered lesser injuries, reports the New York Times. The wife of the man who died is among the injured. The Boeing 777-300ER had 211 passengers and 18 crew aboard.

  • What happened: It's not entirely clear, though there was a 6,000-foot drop that occurred within the space of minutes; Flight Radar 29 tells Reuters that that could have been after the turbulence as part of a descent as the pilots sought an emergency landing. The turbulence occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar, per the BBC. Satellite data showed storms in the region, though the culprit also could have been "clear air turbulence," which can spring up without warning.
  • Major shakeup: "The incident happened during meal service, about two to three hours before the flight was due to land in Singapore," says Kittipong Kittikachorn, GM of Airports of Thailand. "It was probably during breakfast service. Most of the passengers had fastened their seatbelts." Those who hadn't were launched into the plane's ceiling. Per the Times, he calls the scene inside the plane "a mess."
  • From passengers: "Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking," says Dzafran Azmir, 28, "and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling. 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." The BBC has more first-person accounts. "It went from no turbulence ... no plane shaking at all and then I was hitting the roof," says one UK passenger who sustained a neck injury. "All of a sudden, I was up like that."
  • From Singapore Airlines: "We deeply apologize for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight. We are providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time."
  • Rare fatality: Turbulence fatalities are rare, per the Times, though one occurred in US skies last year. And dozens of passengers were injured in March on a New Zealand flight that hit severe turbulence. The Guardian notes that scientists have warned that turbulence might increase amid warming temperatures.
(More Singapore Airlines stories.)

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