Singapore Airlines’ turbulence-hit flight and the 120 seconds of terror

Sam Greenhill
Daily Mail
Sunrise has confirmed eight Australians have been hospitalized after a flight from London to Singapore was hit by extreme turbulence.

The captain turned on the seatbelt sign – but only a split-second later all hell broke loose.

The Boeing dropped out of the sky, plummeting almost a mile in altitude in 120 terrifying seconds.

Passengers not strapped in were instantly launched to the ceiling and overhead lockers.

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Luggage cascaded from lockers and crashed on to people’s heads, bottles of wine, cutlery and food trays hurtled through the air like missiles, and anyone not in their seat was tossed around like a rag doll.

For what seemed like an eternity, the diving aircraft began lurching violently as petrified passengers gripped the seats, with blood-curdling screams and prayers ringing out all around the cabin.

It had been ten hours into Flight SQ321 from London to Singapore when long-haul boredom switched to blood-soaked disaster in the blink of an eye.

There were 211 passengers, including 56 Australians, and 18 crew on board.

It had been a typical, uneventful journey before that point, with some passengers stretching their legs and others watching their second or third in-flight movie.

Then with barely more than an hour left to go, the aircraft had crossed the Andaman Sea and was cruising at 37,000 feet over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar around 3.30pm local time.

The Southeast Asian nation was in the grip of a tropical thunderstorm, and flashes of lightning sparked across the sky.

Suddenly, but too late, the pilots realised they were jetting towards a patch of cumulonimbus cloud – which can cause severe turbulence.

They quickly flipped on the seatbelts sign to alert passengers to buckle up, but for many the warning was in vain.

There were 211 passengers, including 56 Australians, and 18 crew on board. 
There were 211 passengers, including 56 Australians, and 18 crew on board.  Credit: X formerly Twitter

Andrew Davies, an events manager from Lewisham, said: “The plane just dropped. People’s belongings scattered, coffee and water splattered the ceiling. So many injured people – head lacerations, bleeding ears. A lady was screaming in pain with a bad back.”

Photos show a scene of utter chaos with walls ripped open and pipework exposed.

Damage to the inside of the plane.
Damage to the inside of the plane. Credit: X formerly Twitter/X formerly Twitter

Student Dzafran Azmir, 28, said: “Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking. Very suddenly there was a dramatic drop so 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.”

At the moment when the aircraft dropped, the cabin crew had been undertaking their duty to check that passengers were buckling up – and so bore the brunt on the injuries.

A photo taken by a passenger shows a stewardess with blood on her face and her male colleague panic-stricken.

A stewardess with blood on her face and her shaken male colleague. 
A stewardess with blood on her face and her shaken male colleague.  Credit: Caleb Runciman/X/Unknown

Mr Davies added: “One of the men was clearly in a lot of back pain but he, and the rest of them, stoically carried on anyway.”

A British man who was travelling with his family told the BBC: “It went from no turbulence to this one turbulence. No plane shaking at all – and then I was hitting the roof. My son was thrown down on the floor two rows behind me. I heard that there was a guy hitting the roof in the toilet and he was injured quite badly, too.”

A British mother, Allison Barker, told the BBC how she received a message from her son Josh, on his way to a holiday in Bali, which said: “I don’t want to scare you, but I’m on a crazy flight. The plane is making an emergency landing… I love you all.”

She said she then heard nothing further for two hours.

Afterwards, having spoken to him, she said: “One minute he was just sitting down, wearing a seatbelt, the next minute he must have blacked out because he found himself on the floor with other people. There was water everywhere, blood everywhere, people’s belongings just strewn all over the plane.”

An injured passenger is stretchered off the plane.
An injured passenger is stretchered off the plane. Credit: X formerly Twitter/X formerly Twitter

During the melee, British grandfather Geoffrey Kitchen appeared to have suffered a heart attack.

The captain, having stabilised his plane, declared a medical emergency and told air traffic controllers he needed a mayday landing in Bangkok, the nearest airport.

Mr Davies, who was en route to Wellington in New Zealand for work, recalled that some passengers attempted CPR “on the poor gentleman that passed”.

The British man who died on board a flight from London to Singapore has been identified as Geoffrey Kitchen, a 73-year-old musical theatre director.
The British man who died on board a flight from London to Singapore has been identified as Geoffrey Kitchen, a 73-year-old musical theatre director. Credit: Max Corstorphan/7NEWS

Another British passenger Jerry, 68, from Reading, who was on the flight with seven family members, told the BBC he was heading to his son’s wedding in Australia.

Speaking from a hospital in Bangkok, he said: “I had just been to the loo. Came back, sat down, a bit of turbulence and suddenly the plane plunged. It was so sudden, no warning at all.”

He said both he and his wife hit their heads on the ceiling. When the aircraft landed at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, shortly before 4pm local time, passengers appeared shellshocked as paramedics and staff helped them off the plane in wheelchairs and on stretchers.

The injured passengers are transferred to waiting ambulances.
The injured passengers are transferred to waiting ambulances. Credit: X formerly Twitter

A convoy of more than a dozen ambulances were lined up on the tarmac.

The general manager at the airport in Bangkok described a scene of “panic and chaos”.

Last night, while the injured were taken to hospital, Singapore Airlines swiftly arranged transport for the unhurt survivors who wished to continue their journey from Bangkok to Singapore.

Timeline of terror

  1. The Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 departed at 10.17pm on Monday from London Heathrow. There were 211 passengers and 18 crew on board including 47 passengers from the UK
  2. 10 hours 32min into the flight, the jet hit ‘sudden extreme turbulence’ over Myanmar at 37,000 feet, dropping 6,000ft
  3. A passenger reported the plane suffered a ‘dramatic drop’ and people not wearing seatbelts were ‘launched immediately into the ceiling’
  4. The pilot declared a medical emergency and diverted the plane to Bangkok landing at 3.45pm local time on Tuesday

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