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Singapore Airlines: a British man dies in severe turbulence when a flight from London Heathrow was forced to land in Bangkok | World News

A 73-year-old Briton has died of a suspected heart attack after “extreme and sudden turbulence” on a London-Singapore flight.

Dozens more were injured after passengers described people being “thrown against the ceiling” and overhead lockers.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from Heathrow was forced to make an emergency landing in Thailand.

The plane left London on Monday night but diverted to Bangkok and landed at 3.45pm local time on Tuesday.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.  Photo: Reuters
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The oxygen masks were left hanging from the ceiling. Photo: Reuters

A staff member carries people on stretchers after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.  Reuters Photo
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Some passengers were carried on stretchers to ambulances. Reuters Photo

Read more:
Images show damage to plane after one died in turbulence
Are air turbulence getting worse? What types are there?

Singapore Airlines said the pilot declared a medical emergency and landed in Bangkok after “sudden and extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet, about 10 hours after departure.”

Passenger Dzafran Azmir, 28, described the chaos on board.

“Suddenly the plane started to tilt and there were tremors, so I started preparing for what was happening,” he said.

“And very suddenly there was a very dramatic fall, so everyone who was sitting and without a seat belt was immediately thrown towards the roof.”

“Some people hit their heads on the overhead luggage compartments and dented them,” he added.

“They hit the places where the lights and masks were and went through them.”

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.  Photo: Reuters
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Damage to the interior of the plane. Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 after an emergency landing at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 21, 2024. Obtained by Reuters/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.  NO RESALES.  NO FILES
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Passengers on board. Photo: Reuters

Briton Andrew Davies told Sky News that “anyone wearing a seat belt is not injured.”

He said the seat belt sign came on, but there was no time for the crew to take their seats.

Davies said that “every member of the cabin crew I saw was injured in one way or another, perhaps with a cut to the head… One had back problems and was in obvious pain.”

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Emergency services surround the plane on the runway

Kittipong Kittikachorn, director of Bangkok airport, told reporters that a 73-year-old Briton had died of probable cardiac arrest.

He said it is believed the turbulence occurred while people were eating breakfast and that an “air pocket” was to blame.

“Seventy-one people required treatment and six of them suffered critical injuries,” Bangkok’s Smitivej Srinakarin Hospital said.

However, Singapore Airlines appeared to contradict those figures and said only 30 people had been taken to hospital.

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was “in contact with local authorities”.

Among the 211 passengers and 18 crew on board the plane, a Boeing 777-300ER, there were 47 Britons.

A Singapore Airlines plane is seen on the tarmac after requesting an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.  Photo: Pongsak Suksi/Reuters
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The Boeing 777-300ER was forced to land in Bangkok. Photo: Pongsak Suksi/Reuters


airplane meals
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Airplane meals lie scattered on the ground

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Cabin crew surrounded by debris

Flight tracking data showed that the plane was cruising at 37,000 feet (11,280 m) before falling 6,000 feet (1,830 m) in about three minutes.

However, a FlightRadar24 spokesperson said this appeared to be “just a flight level change in preparation for landing.”

Ambulances surrounded the plane on the runway after landing, and images show some passengers being removed on stretchers.

Turbulence can arrive without warning

jo robinson

weather producer

@SkyJoRobinson

There are some forms of turbulence, in which there is a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

Turbulence can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing aircraft to fly around them.

Clear air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous since there are no visual cues, such as clouds.

This invisible vertical air movement typically occurs at 15,000 feet and higher and is primarily related to the jet stream.

There are clues as to where CAT may occur, but it usually cannot be detected in advance, meaning flight crews may be caught by surprise and not have time to warn passengers and post seat belt signs.

It has been known for some time that climate change is increasing turbulence during flights, and the trend is reportedly set to worsen.

“Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” it said in a statement.

“We deeply apologize for the traumatic experience our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight.”

It said it was working with Thai authorities and “providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time”, including sending a special team to Bangkok.

Read more:
Climate change causes more turbulence, scientists say

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Singapore is considered a benchmark for the aviation industry and consistently tops airline awards.

Turbulence-related injuries are the most common type on airliners, according to a study by the US National Transportation Safety Board.

It found it was responsible for more than a third of accidents between 2009 and 2018, but no damage to aircraft.

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