Severe turbulence on Singapore Airlines Flight 321 from London leaves one dead and others injured, airline says

Singapore Airlines said Tuesday that one person was killed and others were injured when a flight from London to Singapore “encountered sudden extreme turbulence.” Flight SQ321 from London Heathrow Airport was diverted to Bangkok and landed shortly before 4 pm local time on Tuesday at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the airline said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

“We can confirm that there are injuries and one death on board the Boeing 777-300ER,” the statement said, adding that 211 passengers and 18 crew members were traveling on the plane.

Suvarnabhumi airport director Kittipong Kittikachorn was quoted by several news agencies as saying at a news conference that the fatality was a 73-year-old British passenger. He said most of the 30 injured people, including passengers and crew, suffered blows to the head. Seven of the people were in critical condition, according to Kittikachorn.

An image taken from video shows a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER parked on the tarmac at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport surrounded by emergency vehicles on May 21, 2024, after flight SQ321 from London to Singapore was diverted after encountering severe turbulence.

Pongsakornr Rodphai/Reuters


CBS News sister network BBC News reported that the man who died was believed to have suffered a heart attack during the turbulence.

Video from the Thai airport showed passengers walking down a ramp onto the runway from the plane, which was surrounded by emergency vehicles.

Several people could be seen lying on a tarp under a tent in a triage area crowded with medical and airport staff.

The airline offered “its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased” and said it was providing assistance to all passengers and crew on the flight.

Boeing also offered its condolences to the family of the deceased passenger in a statement posted on social media. The US aerospace giant said it was in contact with Singapore Airlines and was ready to support the airline as it investigated the incident.

The interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 is shown after the flight was diverted to land at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand after encountering heavy turbulence, on May 21, 2024.

Reuters/Stringer


Tracking data from the FlightAware website showed that the Singapore Airlines plane suddenly fell from an altitude of about 37,000 feet to 31,000 feet in the space of just about five minutes. The crash occurred approximately 11 hours into the flight from London, when the Boeing finished crossing the Andaman Sea and approached the Thai coast.

“Suddenly the plane started to tilt and there were tremors, so I started to prepare for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop, so everyone who was sitting and without a seat belt was immediately thrown out. towards the roof,” said passenger Dzafran Azmir. the Reuters news agency. “Some people hit their heads on the luggage cabins above and dented them. They hit the places where the lights and masks are and went through them.”

Emergency doctors assess and treat people affected by severe turbulence on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321, in a triage area at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, May 21, 2024, after the flight from London to Singapore was diverted to Thai airport.

Pongsakornr Rodphai/Reuters


Another passenger, Andrew Davies, who spoke to BBC News on Tuesday about the harrowing flight, previously posted a series of messages on social media describing the incident.

“A horrible experience,” he said. “Many people were injured, including the flight attendants who were stoic and did everything they could.”

Davies said there was “very little warning” before the plane plummeted, but the seatbelt warning light had come on.

“I put my seat belt on immediately and the plane just fell,” he said, describing the chaos in the cabin as people screamed for a defibrillator and medically trained passengers tried to help the injured.


How climate change is making flight turbulence worse

“A Singapore Airlines crew member said it was by far the worst in his 30 years of flying,” Davies said in a tweet, adding: “The lesson is: wear your seatbelt AT ALL TIMES. Anyone who was injured was not wearing a seat belt. seat belt.”

While in-flight turbulence is increasingly common on many routes, deaths and serious injuries are rare. four people were injured due to severe turbulence on a US domestic flight in Florida in July 2023.

Climatologists have warned travelers to prepare more flight delays and cancellations and more frequent and severe turbulence, especially on routes over the world’s rapidly warming oceans, as a result of climate change.

CBS News climate producer Tracy Wholf says the impacts of climate change on air travel are much broader than just increased turbulence, with Airports are affected by exacerbated floodingextreme heat and precipitation that make takeoffs and landings difficult and even an increase in lightning strikes in the air.