Several people from Singapore Airlines flight in intensive care in Bangkok after turbulence

Twenty people who traveled on board the Singapore Airlines plane which experienced turbulence before an emergency landing in Bangkok on Tuesday were in intensive care in hospitals in the Thai capital after an exceptional incident which claimed their lives to a passenger.

Boeing Flight SQ321, which was carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, experienced extreme and sudden turbulence at 11,000 meters above Myanmar ten hours after takeoff, rising suddenly and diving several times.

A 73-year-old British passenger died and 104 other people were injured on board the plane which was flying from London to Singapore.

The Samitivej hospital group told AFP on Wednesday that it had taken care of 85 of them, including 20 in intensive care from Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines.

Photos taken on the plane show a cabin littered with food, drink bottles and luggage, as well as oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling.

According to a statement from the Philippine Department of Labor, a Filipino passenger, an IT engineer working in Singapore, suffered a broken neck and her condition was deemed “sensitive” but stable by doctors.

Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong expressed his condolences to the deceased’s family and said he was “truly sorry for the traumatic experience” experienced by those on board, in a video message.

At Suvarnabhumi Airport in the Thai capital, medical staff carried the injured on stretchers to ambulances waiting on the tarmac.

A Thai Airways employee told AFP he saw “more than 10” ambulances rushing to the scene. Airport staff separated passengers into four groups based on their health, said the man, who only gave his first name, Poonyaphat.

On Wednesday, 131 traumatized passengers and 12 crew members, the majority of those on the Boeing, finally arrived in Singapore on another flight.

“Incredibly strong turbulence”

They were greeted by relieved relatives but none wanted to speak to journalists.

“I was thrown against the ceiling, then, when the plane suddenly fell, I did the same,” a passenger told the local Australian press on Wednesday after arriving in Sydney, his final destination.

“I then hit the ground quite hard and my breakfast and glass also shattered.”

“Members of the crew were serving breakfast to everyone and it was them, the poor people, who were the most seriously injured,” he added.

Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong sent his “deepest condolences” to the loved ones of the passenger who lost his life, Geoff Kitchen, the manager of a theater near Bristol, Great Britain.

The city-state sent a team of investigators to Bangkok and Mr. Wong assured that his country was “working closely with the Thai authorities” and would conduct “a thorough investigation”.

Among the passengers, 56 were Australian, 47 British and 41 Singaporean, the airline said.

Malaysia said nine of its nationals were hospitalized, including one in critical but stable condition.

An AFP photographer saw Singapore Airlines staff wearing yellow vests entering the plane, which remained grounded in Bangkok, on Wednesday.

“It is too early to know exactly what happened. But I think passengers are not taking enough precautions,” Anthony Brickhouse, an American aviation security expert, commented to AFP.

“As soon as the signal goes off, most of them immediately take off their seat belts.”

“A crazy flight”

Allison Barker, whose son Josh was on the Boeing, told the BBC he had sent her a text message telling her about a “crazy” plane that had to make an emergency landing.

“We didn’t know if he had survived, it was so scary. It was the longest two hours of my life,” she said.

Scientists say climate change is likely to cause more turbulence, invisible to radar.

According to a study carried out in 2023, the annual duration of turbulence increased by 17% between 1979 and 2020 and severe, rarer turbulence by more than 50%.

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