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One dead after Singapore Airlines flight from London hits heavy turbulence

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One dead after Singapore Airlines flight from London hits heavy turbulence

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A British musical theatre director has died and dozens more have been injured after a flight packed with Aussies hit severe turbulence and was forced to make an emergency landing.

At least 71 people were injured – six seriously – when the plane fell into an air pocket while cabin crew were serving breakfast, sending passengers crashing into overhead lockers.

Fifty-six Australians were on-board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London to the city state when it had to divert to Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday afternoon (local time).

“At least eight of those Australians are actually in hospital in Bangkok, having injuries tended to,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill told Sunrise this morning.

Singapore Airlines’ London flight is heavily used by passengers travelling from the UK to Australia. The airline serves seven Australian cities from Singapore.

Emergency Crews Surround Diverted Singapore Airlines Plane After Deadly Turbulence

The Boeing 777-300ER fell 6000ft in just five minutes, 11 hours out from London and nearing its destination of Singapore.

“Some poor people walking around ended up doing somersaults, it was absolutely terrible,” said one passenger.

It’s been reported that 73-year-old grandad Geoff Kitchen died on board the plane suffering from a heart attack as the turbulence hit.

The British man was travelling in premium economy. His wife has been admitted to a Bangkok hospital with her condition unknown. A crew member has also been hospitalised.

Most of the injured passengers on the flight suffered blows to the head, said the director of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Kittipong Kittikachorn, who confirmed the age and nationality of the deceased man.

‘Really nice bloke’

Mr Kitchen, who had a son and daughter with his wife Linda, was from Thornbury, a town in Gloucestershire in England’s south west north of Bristol.

The Sun has reported the couple were beginning a six week holiday to Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Australia when tragedy hit.

He was an amateur actor and former finance worker who has been described as “a really nice bloke” by friends.

“We are really upset. My wife is upstairs crying,” Mr Kitchen’s neighbour Steve Dimond told The Sun.

“He was a really nice guy. I last saw them on Sunday night and my wife saw them drive off on Monday.”

It’s been reported Mr Kitchen had heart issues and had surgery to treat it.

“You wouldn’t know it, he carried on as normal and was very fit and active,” said Mr Dimond of his neighbour.

“They were very adventurous and had been planning the holiday for a long time.

“They spent last weekend with their grandchildren because they wouldn’t be seeing them for a while,” he said.

Video shows inside the Singapore flight smashed by horror turbulence

Almost 60 Aussies on-board

The flight had 211 passengers and 18 crew on board. Of those, 56 were Australian – the single biggest group. The next most numerous nationalities were 47 Britons, 41 Singaporeans, 23 New Zealanders and 16 Malaysians.

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

“Our priority is to provide all possible assistance to all passengers and crew on board the aircraft.”

Friends and relatives seeking information can call the Australian Singapore Airlines hotline on 1800 845 313.

Passengers without serious injuries are being flown from Thailand to Singapore to continue their journeys.

One of Singapore Airlines crew member said it was “by far the worst in her 30 years of flying”, according to a passenger on-board.

Emergency Crews Surround Diverted Singapore Airlines Plane After Deadly Turbulence

‘Suddenly, a drop’

A passenger told Reuters the aircraft had begun “tilting up and there was shaking”.

“So I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop,” 28-year-old Dzafran Azmir said.

“Everyone seated and not wearing seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling.

“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 it.”

Tracking data provided by FlightRadar24 showed the flight was cruising at 37,000 feet before suddenly dropping to around 31,000 feet in just three minutes.

The aircraft remained at 31,000ft for approximately 10 minutes before landing in Bangkok 30 minutes later.

Video shows massive indent above passenger seat on horror Singapore flight

‘Awful screaming’

Jerry, a 68 year old on the flight, told the BBC he had returned to the loo when: “a bit of turbulence” struck.

“Suddenly the plane plunged, I don’t know how far but it was a long way and so sudden. There was no warning at all.

“I ended up hitting my head on the ceiling and my wife did. Some poor people walking around ended up doing somersaults, it was absolutely terrible.

“Suddenly it stopped, and it was calm again. The staff did their best to tend to the injured people, there were a lot of them.

“Some of the staff were injured themselves, so they did a sterling job,” he said.

Andrew Davies said he was on the flight when the chaos erupted.

“During the few seconds of the plane dropping there was an awful screaming and what sounded like a thud,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Afterwards he said he was able to help a woman with a laceration who was “screaming in agony”.

He commended the air stewards for doing “everything they could” in the traumatic situation after “very little warning”.

He said one had “shouted for a defibrillator” when the incident escalated.

Deaths rare during turbulence

Deaths due to turbulence on planes are incredibly rare.

In the last 15 years, there have been 30 deaths attributed to aeroplane travel turbulence. More than four billion people travel by air each year.

The most likely people to be injured on commercial flights are airline staff who, by the nature of their jobs, often are not wearing seat belts.

There have been some recent notable incidents, however.

In early 2023, a former adviser to President Barack Obama died on a private jet over Connecticut, in the US’ north east, after “encountering severe turbulence”.

Last July, a dozen passengers and flight crew members were injured when a Hawaiian Airlines flight travelling from Honolulu to Sydney encountered “severe turbulence” while flying over the Pacific Ocean.

In October, a Jetstar flight from Auckland to Queenstown, in New Zealand, endured turbulence that was so severe, passengers were left airborne in their seats.

An 18-year-old passenger who was on the flight spoke of how the plane’s descent into winds made “all hell break loose”.

“I was next to the wing, so I was looking out the window and all I saw was the wing flapping like a bloody feather.

“It was just wild, I have never experienced turbulence that bad in my life. It felt like a rollercoaster ride.”

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