At least one dead and 30 injured after ‘severe turbulence’ hits flight from London to Singapore

At least one person died and 30 people were injured when a plane was hit by “severe turbulence,” Singapore Airlines said in a statement Tuesday.

The London to Singapore flight was diverted to Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, landing there at 3:45 p.m. local time (4:45 a.m. ET), said the statement published on Facebook. “We can confirm that there are injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER,” the statement added.

The company said in a later statement that 30 people required hospital treatment. Other passengers with more minor injuries were treated at the airport, it said.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, said Tuesday that the deceased was 73 years old.

Without saying whether they were a man or a woman, he said the person had some medical problems that could have led to a fatal cardiac arrest.

At least seven people were critically injured, he added at a news conference.

Kittikachorn said that an investigation would be carried out, but that the cause of the turbulence “was definitely air pockets.”

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SG321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Singapore Airlines Dlight SG321 after an emergency landing in Bangkok on Tuesday.via Reuters

Singapore Airlines offered its “deepest condolences to the family of the deceased” and said that it was working with Thai authorities to “provide the necessary medical assistance,” while also sending the company’s own team to Bangkok to assist.

After setting off at 10:38 p.m. London time (5:38 p.m. ET) Monday, the plane’s journey appeared to be uneventful, according to flight-tracking site FlightAware.

But about 10 hours in, the plane experienced a sharp drop from a cruising altitude of 37,000 feet to 31,000 feet in just five minutes, the FlightAware data said. In one sudden lurch, it dropped almost 700 feet.

Less than 10 minutes later, the plane began its descent into Bangkok.

Passenger Dzafran Azmir, 28, said that he experienced the sensation of rising then falling.

“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 a seat belt was launched immediately into the ceiling,” he told Reuters.

“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,” added Azmir, a student.

A 2021 study by the National Transportation Safety Board found that turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type.

The NTSB found that from 2009 through 2018, turbulence accounted for more than a third of reported airline accidents and that most resulted in one or more serious injuries but no aircraft damage.

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