'Son thrown back two rows': Singapore Airlines flyers recount turbulence horror

Passengers onboard the Singapore Airlines flight which experienced severe turbulence, resulting in an emergency landing in Bangkok, and the death of a passenger, described chaotic scenes with significant damage inside the plane and severe injuries.
'Son thrown back two rows': Singapore Airlines flyers recount turbulence horror
Anjali Raj / Jaano Junction

More than 140 passengers and crew on the Singapore Airlines flight - Boeing BA.N 777-300ER plane, hit by severe turbulence on Tuesday, reached Singapore on a relief flight on Wednesday morning.

The London-Singapore flight made an emergency landing in Bangkok after the turbulence left many injured, while a 73-year-old British passenger died of a suspected heart attack.

According to the aircraft's tracking provider FlightRadar 24, at around 0749 GMT, the flight encountered "a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event."

"There were thunderstorms, some severe, in the area at the time," it said.

Photographs from inside the plane showed gashes in the overhead cabin panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling and luggage strewn around.

Other images showed food and debris strewn throughout the aircraft.


A passenger said some people's heads had slammed into the lights above the seats and punctured the panels.

Upon arriving in Singapore, a 28-year-old student onboard the Boeing BA.N 777-300ER plane told news agency Reuters he saw "people from across the aisle going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in really awkward positions."

"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 student said.

"The crew and people inside lavatories were hurt the most because we discovered people just on the ground not able to get up. There were a lot of spinal and head injuries," the New York Post quoted the student as saying.

A British man with a neck injury said he and his family were "lucky enough" none of them had died.

"It went from no turbulence... no plane shaking at all, and then I hit the roof. All of a sudden, I was up like that. My son was thrown down on the floor two rows behind me. I heard that there was a guy hitting the roof in the toilet and he was injured quite badly, too," he said, speaking from a Thai hospital.

Another passenger, Andrew Davies told the New York Times that the medical training was desperately trying to render aid — including to the elderly British man who died on board.

"People's belongings were 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," Davies added.

He further described the scenes as "awful screaming and what sounded like a thud" in the first few seconds of the incident.

"The thing I remember the most is seeing objects and things flying through the air. I was covered in coffee. It was incredibly severe turbulence," he told the BBC.

Another passenger said the aircraft suddenly started "tilting up" and "shaking".

Sixty-eight-year-old Briton, Jerry, who was travelling to Australia for his son's wedding, said there was no warning before the "plane plunged".

"I hit my head on the ceiling, my wife did - some poor people who were walking around ended up doing somersaults," he recalled.


Allison Barker, whose son Josh was onboard, recalled receiving a frightening text from him during the flight, which she described as "terrifying".

"I don’t want to scare you, but I'm on a crazy flight. The plane is making an emergency landing... I love you all," the message from her son read.

"It was terrifying," she told the BBC.

"I didn't know what was going on. We didn't know whether he'd survived, it was so nerve-wracking. It was the longest two hours of my life. It was awful, it was petrifying," the woman said.

Her son sustained minor injuries in the turbulence, but she said she was concerned that coming close to death could have a lasting impact on him.


In a video message, hours after the flight made an emergency landing in Bangkok, the airline's CEO, Goh Choon Phong, said, "On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased."

The plane encountered sudden extreme turbulence, Goh said, and the pilot then declared a medical emergency and diverted to Bangkok.

In a statement, the airline said, "Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight."

The sudden turbulence occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar about 10 hours into the flight, the airline said.

Singapore's Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said the government would assist the passengers and their families.

"I am deeply saddened to learn about the incident on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London Heathrow to Singapore," he posted in a statement on Facebook.


Turbulence or pockets of disturbed air can have many causes, most obviously the unstable weather patterns that trigger storms, according to an industry briefing by planemaker Airbus.

The resulting water particles can be detected by weather radar.

Turbulence-related incidents are common, according to a 2021 study by the US National Transportation Safety Board.

From 2009 through 2018, it found that turbulence accounted for more than a third of reported events and most resulted in one or more serious injuries, but no aircraft damage.

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'Son thrown back two rows': Singapore Airlines flyers recount turbulence horror

Yet fatal turbulence in air travel remains extremely rare.

Source: India Today

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