Horrific Mid-Air Turbulence Leaves 1 Dead, 71 Injured on Singapore Airlines

Terry K / shutterstock.com
Terry K / shutterstock.com

It was supposed to be just another ordinary flight from Heathrow to Singapore. But for passengers on Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321, it turned into a nightmare. Ten hours into their journey, cruising over Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Basin, the plane dropped 6,000 feet in three minutes—that’s right, 6,000 feet in just three minutes! Passengers barely had time to fasten their seatbelts before they were thrown into chaos.

Breakfast service was in full swing. Coffee and water flew everywhere, and so did phones, shoes, and cushions. Those not strapped in were hurled into the ceiling and across aisles. Andrew Davies, a passenger from London, took to social media to describe the chaos. He saw people with head injuries and bleeding ears. One woman screamed in pain with a severe back injury. Despite the chaos, Andrew managed to help by getting her some water. He stressed that there was no warning – the seatbelt sign came on, and then the plane plummeted.

Pictures from inside the cabin show oxygen masks dangling and panels ripped from the ceiling. The floor was littered with food, drinks, and luggage. Bloodstains marked the carpets. One passenger told Reuters that overhead panels were broken because people slammed into them.

Jerry, a 68-year-old Brit heading to his son’s wedding in Australia, described the horror. He had just returned from the restroom when the plane plunged. He and his wife hit their heads on the ceiling. Jerry said people walking in the aisle ended up doing somersaults. It was a mess, but it suddenly stopped, and calm returned. The flight attendants, some injured themselves, worked tirelessly to help those hurt.

Singapore Airlines reported the flight encountered “sudden extreme turbulence” at 37,000 feet about 10 hours after departure. The pilot declared a medical emergency and diverted to Bangkok, where they landed at 3:45 PM local time. Tragically, a 73-year-old man from Thornbury, Gloucestershire, named Geoffrey Kitchen, died. Thai authorities believe he had a heart attack, likely triggered by the turbulence. Seventy-one people were taken to the hospital, six with severe injuries.

Dzafran Azmir, a student on board, told Reuters that people hit their heads on overhead compartments, denting and breaking them. Medical teams rushed to the plane upon landing, carrying the severely injured on stretchers. The Boeing 777 had 211 passengers, mainly from Australia, Britain, New Zealand, or Singapore, and 18 crew members.

Sandra Tukhunen from Melbourne had her arm in a sling and told Sky News UK she was asleep when the turbulence hit. She woke up, and before she could fasten her seatbelt, she was flung to the roof. Sandra thanked the pilot for saving their lives. “We’re alive; that’s what matters,” she said.

Andrew Davies praised the airline staff for their stoicism despite some being injured. One crew member told him it was the worst turbulence she’d experienced in 30 years. His takeaway? Always wear your seatbelt.

The following day, a relief flight brought 131 passengers and 12 crew members to Singapore. Singapore Airlines is fully cooperating with the authorities. Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau is investigating the incident and sending investigators to Bangkok.

This was a horrifying reminder of why we must always stay buckled up. Our thoughts go out to all those affected by this terrifying experience.