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British man dies and seven people critically injured after flight from London hits extreme turbulence

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It is understood the man who died had a heart condition Seven people are in a critical condition and a further 23 people, including some crew members, have less severe injuries

Flight SQ321 to Singapore was forced to make an emergency landing in Thailand on Tuesday morning UK time.

Singapore Airlines said in a statement: “Singapore Airlines flight #SQ321, operating from London (Heathrow) to Singapore on 20 May 2024, encountered severe turbulence en-route. The aircraft diverted to Bangkok and landed at 1545hrs local time on 21 May 2024.

“We can confirm that there are injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER. There were a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board.

“Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.

“Our priority is to provide all possible assistance to all passengers and crew on board the aircraft. We are working with the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary medical assistance, and sending a team to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed.”

British passenger dies after Heathrow flight hits severe turbulence

Speaking at a press conference, the airport’s general manager gave more details about the “chaotic” incident, saying the person who died likely had suffered a cardiac arrest.

Kittipong Kittikachorn confirmed the deceased passenger was a 73-year-old British man who had a heart condition. He was travelling with his wife who was taken to hospital.

He added seven people are in a critical condition and a further 23 people, including some crew members, have less severe injuries.

The manager said: “I confirm the death toll is one person … we learned he had a heart condition. The death is now to be subject to an autopsy but we think it could be caused by a heart attack. The deceased was a British national, 73 years old.

“The police has taken over the case and the body will be sent to autopsy department then they will contact the embassy.”

He continued: “Most injuries were cuts on the head. It was chaotic but most of the passengers received small injuries on their head.”

The general manager added that he believed that passengers were having breakfast when the turbulence hit.

A passenger on the flight described how the flight dropped and some people on board were launched upwards.

Dzafran Azmir, 28, said: “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 seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling.”

Another passenger, Andrew Davies, a father-of-two from Lewisham in south-east London, described how the plane “just dropped”.

“I was on that flight and helped as much as I could,” he wrote on X late on Tuesday morning. “Those not injured (including me) are in a holding area at Bangkok airport. My heart goes out to the gentleman who lost his life and his poor wife. Awful experience.”

He added there were “lots of people injured – including the air stewards who were stoic and did everything they could”.

He said there had been “very little warning” the turbulence was about to hit.

“The seatbelt sign came on, I put on my seatbelt straightaway then the plane just dropped,” he said.

He told how passengers tried to provide medical aid to the passenger that died.

Thai immigration police said on Tuesday morning medical personnel had boarded the plane to assess injuries, but could not confirm the number.

Some uninjured passengers had reportedly exited the plane.

A photo that was reportedly taken on board the stricken aircraft appeared to show plates of food that had been thrown to the cabin floor during the turbulence.

Another photo showed a row of ambulances lined up next to the plane on the tarmac, after it had landed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Flight SQ321 left Terminal 2 at London Heathrow at around 10.15pm UK time, on Monday.

According to online flight data captured by FlightRadar24, the plane was travelling near the west coast of Myanmar at an altitude of 37,000 feet shortly after 9am UK time on Tuesday, when it plunged around 6,000ft in the space of around three minutes.

The area is understood to be experiencing tropical monsoon thunderstorms.

The aircraft stayed at 31,000 feet for just under 10 minutes before rapidly descending and landing in nearby Bangkok around 40 minutes later.

The emergency landing happened around 3.45pm local time in Thailand on Tuesday – 9.45am in the UK.

The flight was nearly 11 hours into the 13-hour journey to Singapore when it encountered “severe turbulence”, the airline confirmed.

Thai media reports 30 people were injured in the incident. Singapore Airlines did not specify the figure, and did not immediately respond to the Standard’s requests for further details.

“Injuries from severe turbulence are relatively rare in the context of millions of flights operated. However, severe turbulence can be dramatic and lead to severe injuries or sadly in this case a fatality,” John Strickland, a general aviation expert, told the BBC.

Mr Strickland said flight crews have the resources to predict turbulence and they are also trained in how to respond to the issue.

In a statement posted on Facebook Singapore’s Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said the government are providing support to the affected passengers and their families.

He said: “I am deeply saddened to learn about the incident onboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London Heathrow to Singapore.

“The plane had encountered severe turbulence en-route and had to be diverted to Bangkok. Singapore Airlines has confirmed that there are injuries and one fatality on board… My deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.”

Two British Airways cabin crew suffered broken legs when a flight from Singapore to Heathrow was affected by severe turbulence over the Bay of Bengal on June 28 last year.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said “unsecured cabin crew were thrown around in the cabin”, resulting in two crew members being seriously injured and three sustaining minor injuries.

No passengers were hurt and the plane returned to Singapore.

The last Singapore Airlines fatalities were in October 2000 when a plane crashed on a closed runway during takeoff at Taiwan, and 83 people died.

Singapore Airlines has had seven accidents according to records by the Aviation Safety Network.

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