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British man who died on London to Singapore flight hit by extreme turbulence was ‘on holiday of a lifetime’

The British man who died after severe turbulence onboard a Singapore Airlines flight from Heathrow has been named as Geoffrey Kitchen, a musical theater director from Gloucestershire.

The 73-year-old is believed to have died from a suspected heart attack after the plane experienced a sudden drop mid-air, plunging thousands of feet.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Kitchen, a grandfather from Thornbury, near Bristol, who was said to have an existing heart condition and was traveling with his wife Linda on the flight. She was taken to hospital after the incident.

Neighbors said the pair were flying to start a six week “holiday of a lifetime” in South East Asia and Australia.

A close friend and neighbor told reporters he was “adventurous” and “a really nice guy,” saying “It’s a terrible shock, he was a really nice block.”

Mr Kitchen had been planning to go on a cruise in Indonesia and then travel to Australia.

A friend told the Today program on Wednesday: “The last time I saw him was just after new year and they were both talking about this (trip) – they were both very adventurous travelers, they loved to travel and this was something they were particularly looking forward to.

“It had been planned for a very long time, it was very exciting.”

In a Facebook post shared on Tuesday evening, Thornbury Musical Theater Group, which he ran, said: “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

Geoff Kitchen has been named as the man who died on the Singapore Airlines flight

“Geoff was always a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity and always did what was right for the group.

“His commitment to TMTG was unquestionable and he has served the group and the local community of Thornbury for over 35 years, holding various offices within the group, including Chairman, Treasurer and most recently Secretary.

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

Flight SQ321 to Singapore, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew, was forced to make an emergency landing in Thailand on Tuesday morning UK time.

Passengers told how the plane suffered a “dramatic drop”, meaning people not wearing seatbelts were “launched immediately into the ceiling”.

Flight data showed the plane falling about 6,000ft, from a cruising altitude of 37,000ft, in the space of three minutes.

A father-of-two from Lewisham, who was on the flight, said passengers were left with “head lacerations (and) bleeding ears.”

Another passenger said baggage compartments were left dented by the impact of people hitting their heads, while video appeared to show blood spattered on the cabin ceiling.

Staff members carry people on stretchers at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (via REUTERS)

The plane made an emergency landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport around 9.45am on Tuesday UK time – around 11 hours after leaving London.

Speaking at a press conference, the airport’s general manager confirmed a 73-year-old British man who had a heart condition died in the incident. He was traveling with his wife, who was taken to hospital.

Kittipong Kittikachorn said the man likely had suffered a cardiac arrest.

He added seven people were in a critical condition. In total, it is understood that 53 passengers were injured and one crew member was injured.

The manager said: “I confirm the death toll is one person… we learned he had a heart condition. The death is now to be subject to an autopsy but we think it could be caused by a heart attack.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SG321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (REUTERS)

“The police have taken over the case and the body will be sent to the autopsy department then they will contact the embassy.”

He continued: “Most injuries were cuts on the head. “It was chaotic but most of the passengers received small injuries on their heads.”

The chief executive of Singapore Airlines issued a public apology on Wednesday morning.

In a video statement, the airline’s CEO Goh Choon Phong apologized “to everyone affected” by the “sudden extreme turbulence” and sent his condolences to Mr Kitchen’s family.

“We are very sorry for the traumatic experience that everyone on board SQ321 went through,” he said.

“We are providing all possible assistance and support to them, along with their families and loved ones, during this difficult time. The well-being of our passengers and staff is our utmost priority.”

Inside the aircraft, in the aftermath of the incident (REUTERS)

It said the flight encountered “sudden extreme turbulence” over Myanmar at 37,000 feet (11,300m) about 10 hours after departure. The pilot declared a medical emergency and diverted the aircraft to Bangkok.

Passengers on board included 47 from the United Kingdom, 56 from Australia, and 41 from Singapore.

Mr Kittikachorn said he believed passengers were having breakfast when the turbulence struck.

Photos from on board the stricken aircraft appeared to show plates of food that had been thrown to the cabin floor by the impact of the turbulence.

Another showed a row of ambulances lined up next to the plane on the tarmac, after it had landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

One video clip showed what appeared to be blood spattered on the cabin’s ceiling, from which oxygen masks were dangling.

A passenger on the flight described how the flight dropped and some people on board were launched upwards, hitting their heads.

Student Dzafran Azmir, 28, said: “Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling “

Rescue workers prepare to help injured passengers and cabin crew on the flight (X)

Another passenger, Andrew Davies, a father-of-two from Lewisham in south-east London, described how the plane “just dropped.”

“I was on that flight and helped as much as I could,” he wrote on X late on Tuesday morning. “Those not injured (including me) are in a holding area at Bangkok airport. My heart goes out to the gentleman who lost his life and his poor wife. “Awful experience.”

He added there were “lots of people injured – including the air stewards who were stoic and did everything they could.”

He said there had been “very little warning” the turbulence was about to hit.

“The seatbelt sign came on, I put on my seatbelt straightaway then the plane just dropped,” he said.

He told how passengers tried to provide medical aid to the British passenger who died.

A photo appears to show food and plates spread across the floor of the plane (Supplied)

A mother named Allison Barker told the BBC her son Josh had broken teeth and injured his mouth during the flight.

She told the BBC: “One minute he was just sitting down wearing a seatbelt, the next minute, he must have been blacked out because he found himself on the floor with other people.

“There was water everywhere, blood everywhere, people’s belongings just spilled all over the plane.”

Flight SQ321 left Terminal 2 at London Heathrow at around 10.15pm UK time, on Monday.

According to online flight data captured by FlightRadar24, the plane was traveling near the west coast of Myanmar at an altitude of 37,000 feet shortly after 9am UK time on Tuesday, when it plunged around 6,000ft in the space of around three minutes.

The area is understood to be experiencing tropical monsoon thunderstorms.

(Flightradar24.com/PA Wire)

The aircraft stayed at 31,000 feet for just under 10 minutes before rapidly descending and landing in nearby Bangkok around 40 minutes later.

The emergency landing happened around 3.45pm local time in Thailand on Tuesday – 9.45am in the UK.

The flight was nearly 11 hours into the 13-hour journey to Singapore when it encountered “severe turbulence,” the airline confirmed.

Thai media reports 30 people were injured in the incident. Singapore Airlines did not specify the figure, and did not immediately respond to the Standard’s requests for further details.

“Injuries from severe turbulence are relatively rare in the context of millions of flights operated. However, severe turbulence can be dramatic and lead to severe injuries or sadly in this case a fatality,” John Strickland, a general aviation expert, told the BBC.

Mr Strickland said flight crews have the resources to predict turbulence and they are also trained in how to respond to the issue.

In a statement posted on Facebook Singapore’s Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said the government is providing support to the affected passengers and their families.

He said: “I am deeply saddened to learn about the incident onboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London Heathrow to Singapore.

“The plane had encountered severe turbulence en-route and had to be diverted to Bangkok. Singapore Airlines has confirmed that there are injuries and one fatality on board… My deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.”

Singapore Airlines said it has set up a hotline to support relatives seeking information about passengers.

Boeing said it is “in contact with Singapore Airlines regarding Flight SQ321 and stand ready to support them.”

Two British Airways cabin crew suffered broken legs when a flight from Singapore to Heathrow was affected by severe turbulence over the Bay of Bengal on June 28 last year.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said “unsecured cabin crew were thrown around in the cabin”, resulting in two crew members being seriously injured and three sustaining minor injuries.

No passengers were hurt and the plane returned to Singapore.

The last Singapore Airlines fatalities were in October 2000 when a plane crashed on a closed runway during takeoff to Taiwan, and 83 people died.

Singapore Airlines has had seven accidents according to records by the Aviation Safety Network.

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