Singapore Airlines: Passengers recall horror as turbulence hits flight

video title, Passenger describes moment of turbulence on Singapore flight

Passengers have described scenes of “absolute terror” when severe turbulence hit their Singapore Airlines flight, sending people and belongings hurling across the cabin.

Geoff Kitchen, a 73-year-old Briton, died of a suspected heart attack, while more than 30 others were injured when a London-Singapore flight suddenly went down during a meal service.

Andrew Davies, from Britain, described the first few seconds of the incident as “horrific screams and what sounded like noises”.

“The thing I remember the most is seeing things flying in the air and stuff.

“I was covered in coffee. It was incredibly intense turbulence,” he told the BBC.

Another passenger said the plane suddenly “leaned up” and “rocked”.

“I started bracing for what was happening and suddenly there was a very dramatic fall, so everyone who was sitting and not wearing a seat belt was immediately thrown into the ceiling,” 28-year-old student Dzafran Azmir told Reuters.

“Some people hit the top of the baggage cabins and dented it, they hit the places where the lights and masks are and broke them straight,” he added.

The Singapore-bound Boeing 777-300ER was diverted to Bangkok following the mid-air incident and made an emergency landing at 15:45 local time (08:45 GMT), with around 211 passengers and 18 crew on board.

Singapore Airlines said 31 people on board had been taken to hospital, and the airline extended its condolences to Mr Kitchen’s family.

Thornbury Musical Theater Group, a local theater company he helped run in South Gloucestershire, called him “a gentleman of great integrity and honesty”.

About 10 hours after takeoff, the plane encountered “sudden severe turbulence” at 37,000 feet in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy basin, an airline official said.

The company said it was working with Thai authorities to provide medical assistance to the passengers and would send a team to Bangkok for additional assistance.

image caption, Interior of the cabin, pictured after an emergency landing in Bangkok
image caption, After the plane encountered turbulence, food and drinks, including kettles, were filmed on the plane’s floor.

‘The bystanders were thrilled’

Alison Barker said she received a message from her son Josh, who was on the plane en route to Bali: “I don’t want to scare you, but I’m on a crazy plane. The plane is making an emergency landing. . . . I love you all.”

After that news, she waited an “awful” two hours before hearing from him again.

“One minute, he was sitting with his seat belt on, the next minute, he must have blacked out because he was on the ground with other people,” he told the BBC.

Josh, she said, suffered minor injuries — but she worries that the near-death experience will have a lasting effect on him.

Another Briton, Gerry, 68, was visiting Australia for his son’s wedding. He said there was no warning before the “plane sank”.

“I hit my head on the roof and my wife did — some poor guy walking around ended up doing the thrills,” he recalled.

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

“It went from no turbulence … no plane shake and then I was hitting the roof. Suddenly, I woke up like that.

“My son was thrown to the ground two rows behind me. I heard that a boy hit the ceiling of the toilet and he was also badly injured,” he said, speaking from a Thai hospital.

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

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

Turbulence is usually caused by aircraft flying through cloud, but there is also “clear air” turbulence that is not visible on jet weather radar.

“Injuries from severe turbulence are relatively rare in an environment where millions of aircraft are operated,” aviation expert John Strickland told the BBC.

“However, severe turbulence can lead to dramatic and serious injuries or, unfortunately in this case, a death.”

Flight crews are also trained on how to respond to turbulence, he said.

“It’s not unreasonable for airlines to recommend that seat belts be fastened loosely throughout a flight, whether it’s long or short,” he added.

Aviation journalist Sally Gethin said that wearing a seat belt is “the difference between life and death”, explaining that anything unfastened can be dangerous during severe turbulence.

Research shows that climate change will create severe turbulence in the future.

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