Singapore Airlines flight: 1 dead, dozens injured after severe turbulence

BANGKOK (AP) — A Singapore Airlines flight hit severe turbulence in the Indian Ocean and plunged 6,000 feet (about 1,800 meters) in about 3 minutes, the carrier said Tuesday. One British man died and officials said dozens of passengers were injured, some seriously.

An airport official said the 73-year-old man may have suffered a heart attack, although that has not been confirmed. His name was not immediately released.

A Boeing 777 flight bound for Singapore from London’s Heathrow Airport with 211 passengers and 18 crew members was diverted and landed in Bangkok in stormy weather.

British passenger Andrew Davies told Sky News that the seat belt sign was illuminated but crew members did not have time to get into their seats.

“Every cabin crew person I saw was injured in some way, maybe they had a head injury,” Davis said. “One had a bad back and was in obvious pain.”

Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on the flight, told ABC News: “Some people hit their heads on top of the luggage boxes and poked it. They hit the places where the lights and masks were and broke it straight.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport, told a press conference that the sudden landing was due to passengers being served food.

Seven passengers were seriously injured, while 23 passengers and nine crew members sustained moderate injuries, he said. 16 people with less serious injuries were treated at the hospital and 14 were treated at the airport. He said the British man appeared to have suffered a heart attack, but medical authorities needed to confirm that.

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A later statement from Samithivej Hospital in Srinagar said 71 people were treated there, including 6 seriously injured. No explanation for the discrepancy was found.

Tracking data captured by FlightRadar24 and analyzed by The Associated Press shows Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 traveling at an altitude of 37,000 feet (11,300 meters).

At one point, the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft made a sudden and sharp descent to 31,000 feet (9,400 meters) in about three minutes, according to the data. The plane then hovered at 31,000 feet (9,400 meters) for less than 10 minutes before diverting and landing in Bangkok within half an hour.

The plane went down in the Andaman Sea near Myanmar when it crashed. The plane then sent the “squawk code” 7700, an international distress signal.

Weather details were not immediately available.

Most people associate turbulence with severe storms, but the most dangerous type is called clear air turbulence. Air pressure can occur in wispy cirrus clouds or even clear air in thunderstorms because differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

The turbulence problem was highlighted in December, when a total of 41 people were injured or received medical treatment on two separate flights affected by turbulence in the United States over two consecutive days.

According to the US National Transportation Safety Board’s 2021 report, turbulence accounted for 37.6% of all accidents involving large commercial aircraft between 2009 and 2018. Another US government agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, reported 146 serious incidents since the December incidents. Injuries caused by turbulence from 2009 to 2021.

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The NTSB said it was sending a team to Singapore to support the accident investigation.

Boeing expressed its condolences to the family of the deceased and said it was in touch with Singapore Airlines and “stands ready to support them”. The wide-body Boeing 777 is the workhorse of the aviation industry, mainly used by airlines around the world for long-haul flights. The 777-300ER variant of the twin-engine, two-aisle aircraft is larger and can carry more passengers than previous models.

Singapore Airlines, the city-state’s flag carrier, operates 22 aircraft as part of its more than 140 flights. The airline’s parent company is owned by Singapore’s government investment firm Temasek and also operates budget airline Scoot.

Thailand’s Transport Minister Surya Jangrungruangkit said Singapore was sending another plane to pick up those who could travel. Arrived Bangkok on Tuesday night.

In a Facebook post, Singapore’s Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said his ministry and Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority and Changi Airport officials and airline staff were “supporting the affected passengers and their families”.

The ministry’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau said it was in contact with its Thai counterpart and was sending investigators to Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines said 56 Australians, 2 Canadians, 1 German, 3 Indians, 2 Indonesians, 1 Icelander, 4 Irish, Israelis, 16 Malaysians, 2 from Myanmar, 23 from New Zealand and 5 from the Philippines. 41 from Singapore, 1 from South Korea, 2 from Spain, 47 from the UK and 4 from the US.

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Associated Press writers Elaine Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and John Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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