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13 Jun 2024 7:25
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  •   Home > News > Living & Travel

    Passengers recount 'absolutely terrible' scenes during turbulence on Singapore Airlines flight

    Passengers detail what it was like on board the flight bound for Singapore, as a British musical theatre group identifies the 73-year-old man who died.

    Singapore Air
    Singapore Air

    Passengers have described the terror they felt on board a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore when it hit severe turbulence 37,000 ft in the air.

    One passenger died, a 73-year-old British man who has been identified by a local theatre company as Geoff Kitchen.

    The flight, bound for Singapore, was forced to make an emergency landing at Bangkok Airport after it hit severe turbulence over Myanmar.

    Singapore Airlines also confirmed that 18 people were hospitalised.

    Eight of those were Australian, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed.

    A DFAT spokesperson said consular officials from the Australian Embassy in Bangkok were providing consular assistance to the eight and, with the Australian High Commission in Singapore, investigating if any further Australians were affected. 

    Terrifying ordeal for passengers

    There was little warning of the chaos unleashed onboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ321.

    When the aircraft hit the turbulence 10 hours into the flight, passengers not wearing seatbelts were flung from their seats.

    Many were in the middle of eating breakfast.

    Jerry, a 68-year-old British passenger, and his wife hit their heads on the ceiling of the plane during the incident.

    "Just went to the loo, came back, sat down, bit of turbulence and suddenly the plane plunged," he said.

    "Some poor people walking around ended up doing somersaults.

    "It was absolutely terrible."

    He said the staff did their best to tend to the "many" injured people while having sustained injuries themselves.

    "They did a sterling job and eventually we were told we would be diverted to Bangkok, which was a huge relief."

    "Thankfully my daughter seems OK and my wife seems OK but it was absolutely terrifying."

    Aircraft tracking provider FlightRadar 24 said at around 0749 GMT the flight encountered "a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event", based on flight tracking data.

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

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

    With around three hours left on the journey from London to Singapore, Malaysian student Dzafran Azmir got the uneasy feeling the Boeing 777-300R plane was tilting upwards and beginning to shake, he told Reuters.

    The 28-year-old braced himself and said the ordeal was very quick, only lasting about 10 seconds.

    He had his seatbelt on but many of the other passengers did not, he said.

    "Suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing 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," he said.

    "People dropped to the ground, my phone flew out of my hand and went a couple aisles to the side, people's shoes flung about."

    He said crew and people inside the toilets were hurt the most.

    "There were a lot of spinal and head injuries," he said.

    Once the plane was on the tarmac, nurses and rescue workers came in to check on the injured, Mr Azmir said.

    "I don't think they anticipated how bad it was," he said.

    Allison Barker told the BBC that her son Josh was on the plane.

    "I don't want to scare you, but I'm on a crazy flight," he wrote to her.

    "The plane is making an emergency landing… I love you all.

    Ms Barker said it was "terrifying".

    "I didn't know what was going on. We didn't know whether he'd survived, it was so nerve-racking.

    "It was the longest two hours of my life … it was petrifying."

    She was eventually able to speak to him and confirm he was safe.

    He suffered minor injuries.

    British passenger Andrew Davies told the Associated Press that the seatbelt sign was illuminated but crew members did not have time to take their seats.

    "Every single cabin crew person I saw was injured in some way or another, maybe with a gash on their head," Davies said.

    "One had a bad back, who was in obvious pain."

    Ambulances later arrived and Mr Azmir said he saw at least 8 people on stretchers being pulled out of the emergency exits. It took 90 minutes to evacuate the plane.

    Passenger who died on flight remembered as a 'gentleman'

    While passengers recover in hospital, the incident's British victim, who died from a suspected heart attack, has been identified.

    Thornbury Musical Theatre Group wrote in a post on its Facebook page: "It is with a heavy heart that we learn of the devastating news of the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend Geoff Kitchen in the recent Singapore Air Incident.

    "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and the family at this difficult time, and we ask that you respect their privacy."

    The British Foreign Office has not yet identified him.

    A spokesperson for the department told the BBC they were supporting his family and were in contact with the local authorities.

    He has not been officially identified by authorities in the UK or Asia.

    The Musical Theatre group wrote that Mr Kitchen, who was a secretary for the group, "was always a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity and always did what was right for the group".

    In a statement, the CEO of Singapore Airlines extended his deepest condolences to "the family and loved ones of the passenger who passed away".

    "We are deeply saddened by this incident, and are committed to providing all necessary support and assistance to the passengers and crew members who were on board SQ321, as well as their families and loved ones."

    The US National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) will send representatives to support Singapore's investigation into the incident.

    Were you on the Singapore Airlines SQ321 flight or know someone who was? Let us know by filling in the form below.


    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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