1 Dead, 71 Injured As Singapore Air Flight Hits Strong Turbulence

One passenger died and 71 others sustained injuries after a Singapore Airlines flight encountered severe turbulence on Tuesday. The turbulence caused passengers and crew to be thrown around the cabin, forcing an emergency landing in Bangkok.

Originally departing from London en route to Singapore, the flight plunged into an air pocket during breakfast service, leading the pilots to request an emergency landing at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, according to airport general manager Kittipong Kittikachorn at a press briefing.

The airline reported that the turbulence occurred over Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Basin, about ten hours into the journey. Following the incident, the pilot declared a medical emergency and rerouted to Bangkok, though no additional specifics were provided.

Images from inside the aircraft showed extensive damage to the overhead cabin panels, with emergency oxygen masks and panels hanging down, and scattered personal belongings. According to a passenger, some individuals hit their heads against the overhead lights, causing damage to the panels.

Kittikachorn remarked on the scene, describing widespread debris and several air crew members showing signs of bruises after the most severely injured had been evacuated.

A British man, aged 73, died during the flight, likely from a heart attack, Kittikachorn noted. He also reported that seven passengers suffered critical injuries, including head wounds, yet people remained composed as they exited the aircraft.

“Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologize for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight,” the airline said.

There were discrepancies in the injury reports among the 211 passengers and 18 crew members. The airline confirmed that 18 individuals were hospitalized, with 12 receiving treatment, while Samitivej Hospital reported treating 71 passengers.

No conclusive data from tracking services was available to detail the sequence of the flight incident, though a FlightRadar 24 spokesperson indicated that analysis of data around 0749 GMT showed the aircraft making a sharp ascent before returning to cruising altitude within a minute.

One passenger described experiencing a sudden ascent followed by a significant drop. “The plane began to tilt upwards and shake, prompting me to brace myself. Shortly after, there was a dramatic plunge causing anyone standing or unbelted to hit the ceiling,” recounted Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student.

“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,” he said.

According to Kittikachorn, most passengers he spoke to had been wearing their seat belts at the time of the incident.

FlightRadar 24’s spokesperson suggested that the turbulence likely occurred before the plane’s descent from 37,000 to 31,000 feet, which seemed to be a routine altitude adjustment before landing.

Suvarnabhumi Airport confirmed that the aircraft requested an emergency landing at 3:35 PM local time (0835 GMT) and touched down at 3:51 PM, allowing uninjured passengers to disembark and transfer to another flight.

The Transport Safety Investigation Bureau of Singapore has dispatched investigators to Bangkok to examine the incident further.

According to a 2021 study by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence is the most frequent cause of airline accidents.

Singapore Airlines is renowned as a leading global airline and sets a high standard within the industry, with no significant incidents in recent years.

The airline’s last major accident with fatalities occurred on October 31, 2000, when a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Taipei crashed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport due to a wrong runway takeoff, resulting in the deaths of 83 of the 179 passengers aboard.