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Travel1 dead, at least 30 hurt on turbulent Singapore Airlines flight

1 dead, at least 30 hurt on turbulent Singapore Airlines flight

One person was killed on Monday night and more than 30 were injured after a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore was rocked by severe turbulence.

A total of 211 passengers and 18 crewmembers were on board Singapore Flight 321, which diverted to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) after encountering “sudden extreme turbulence,” the airline said.

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The passenger who died was a 73-year-old British man who appeared to have died from a heart attack and had a history of heart problems, the BBC and Wall Street Journal reported, citing authorities in Bangkok. Scores of other passengers were hurt, although the total count was not immediately clear. Thirty passengers were brought to hospitals in Bangkok for treatment, the airline said, while the BBC cited BKK airport officials in reporting that a total of 53 passengers were injured — seven critically — as well as nine crew members.

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

The flight was operated on a Boeing 777-300ER, the airline said, which was delivered new to Singapore in 2008, according to Airfleets.net. It was in storage in Alice Springs, Australia, from December 2021 until last month.

The incident occurred about 10 hours into the flight, the airline said in a statement, as the flight passed over the Irrawaddy River Basin in Malaysia. The flight diverted to Bangkok and landed about an hour after the event, according to flight tracking data from FlightRadar24.

The turbulence hit shortly after passengers began to put on their seat belts, the general manager of BKK, Kittipong Kittikachorn, said, according to the BBC, although it was not immediately clear whether that was because the pilots had turned on the fasten-seat-belt sign.

Dzafran Azmir, a passenger on the flight, described experiencing turbulence ahead of feeling a sudden drop.

“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 a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling,” Azmir told Reuters.

“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,” Azmir added.

Images from inside the flight circulating on social media appeared to show objects strewn about the cabin, along with panels from the cabin’s walls and ceilings that appear to have fallen off during the turbulence. Other photos showed bloody crew members and anxious passengers gripping seats and armrests.

“So many injured people — head lacerations, bleeding ears,” passenger Andrew Davies told the BBC. “Lots of people injured — including the air stewards who were stoic and did everything they could.”

Turbulence can range in severity, but the most severe turbulence has become more common in recent years as a result of climate change, researchers say. One study found that severe turbulence over the North Atlantic had increased 55% between 1979 and 2020.

While aircraft radar can detect some areas of turbulence, so-called clear air turbulence cannot be seen or avoided.

Related: Should you be worried about turbulence? Here’s what the experts say

Still, injuries and fatalities linked to turbulence remain exceedingly rare. There were 163 serious injuries linked to turbulence between 2009 and 2022, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration. Nearly 80% of those injured were crew members.

Despite the relative rarity of injuries linked to rough air, turbulence can come on without warning and, when it’s severe, can cause injuries when unsecured people and objects are suddenly thrown around the cabin. Airlines and experts recommend passengers remain seated with their seat belts fastened whenever possible during flights.

Several prolific episodes in recent years have highlighted the potential risk caused by turbulence.

In March, seven people sustained minor injuries aboard a United Airlines flight bound for Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) after the flight encountered turbulence.

Last July, four people were hurt — two passengers and two flight attendants — when an Allegiant Airlines flight from North Carolina to Florida was hit by severe turbulence.

Also last July, a Hawaiian Airlines flight was forced to turn around about five hours into its journey from Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) to Sydney Airport (SYD) after seven people were hurt during turbulence.


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