'Blood everywhere' inside the cabin: Passengers 'blacked out' in severe turbulence on Singapore Airlines flight

22 May 2024, 08:16 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 08:36

Passengers have described the scenes on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321
Passengers have described the scenes on board Singapore Airlines flight SQ321. Picture: Social media

By Flaminia Luck

Passengers on a flight from London to Singapore which plummeted in severe turbulence have described their terror at being caught in a mid-air plunge which has left one man dead and as many as 30 people injured.

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Passengers have described chaotic scenes on board Singapore Airlines plane flight SQ321, with people and objects suddenly launched across the cabin.

The plane, with 211 passengers and 18 crew on board, dropped sharply from 37,000ft to 31,000ft in just five minutes near Myanmar airspace around 11 hours into its journey.

Any passengers on board not wearing seatbelts were “launched into the ceiling," survivors later said.

One passenger said: “Some poor people walking around ended up doing somersaults. It was absolutely terrible.”

Passengers on board the flight that was hit by severe turbulence
Passengers on board the flight that was hit by severe turbulence. Picture: Social Media

Another passenger, named as Josh, told the Times he had blacked out amid the savage turbulence.

He said the cabin was covered in pools of blood when he came round.

Crew on board the plane were left bloodied after the terrifying flight
Crew on board the plane were left bloodied after the terrifying flight. Picture: Social Media

“There was water everywhere, blood everywhere, people's belongings just strewn all over the plane.”

Images posted on social media showed blood stains and damage to the ceiling of the cabin, and food, cutlery and other debris strewn on the floor after the incident.

The plane on the tarmac in Thailand
The plane on the tarmac in Thailand. Picture: Getty

One passenger from London, Andrew Davies, described the scenes of chaos on board to LBC's Andrew Marr.

"I was watching a film then the seatbelt sign came on, I quickly put it on, and a few moments after the plane literally just dropped - lots of people's belongings crashed to the ceiling, there were cups, blankets, pillows, cushions, my shoes vanished.

Footage from on board showed dents in the plane's ceiling
Footage from on board showed dents in the plane's ceiling. Picture: Social media

"It was only when I looked behind me that I realised the gravity of it - an elderly lady had very deep cuts on her forehead and was covered in blood, there were lots of people screaming.

Passengers who weren't wearing their seatbelts were flung into the ceiling
Passengers who weren't wearing their seatbelts were flung into the ceiling. Picture: Social media

"I got up and tried to help people where I could. The gentleman (who died), we got him out of his seat into the corridor with passengers who were medics doing CPR."

Read more: Pictured: Pensioner, 73, killed during London-Singapore flight named as British musical theatre director

Emergency services at the scene
Emergency services at the scene. Picture: Alamy

Musical theatre director Geoffrey Kitchen, 73, was travelling in premium economy with his wife when the Singapore Airlines plane flight SQ321 experienced the turbulence while flying near Myanmar airspace.

Geoffrey Kitchen is suspected to have died from a heart attack
Geoffrey Kitchen is suspected to have died from a heart attack. Picture: Social media

The head of Bangkok Airport, where the plane was diverted to, said Mr Kitchen died of a suspected heart attack. An autopsy will also be carried out.

Mr Kitchen's wife Linda is also in hospital, the officials said, but her condition is unknown.

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Could pilots have predicted the turbulence on London-Singapore flight?

The chief executive of Singapore Airlines has apologised after the terrifying ordeal for passengers.

Tributes have been paid for Mr Kitchen, who suffered a suspected heart attack on the flight.

In a video statement posted on Facebook, Singapore Airlines chief Goh Choon Phong said he offered his "deepest condolences" to Mr Kitchen's family.

[Update 5] Singapore Airlines CEO Mr Goh Choon Phong addresses the SQ321 incident in his video message. We are deeply...

Posted by Singapore Airlines on Tuesday, May 21, 2024

"We are deeply saddened by this incident," he said.

"On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased. We are very sorry for the traumatic experience that everyone on board SQ321 went through.

Emergency workers coordinate their response at the airport in Thailand
Emergency workers coordinate their response at the airport in Thailand. Picture: Alamy

"We are fully co-operating with the relevant authorities on the investigations."

He said some 79 passengers and six crew members are receiving medical treatment in Bangkok and a relief flight carrying the remaining passengers and crew members arrived in Singapore early on Wednesday.

Thornbury Musical Theatre Group (TMTG) in Bristol paid tribute to Mr Kitchen in a Facebook post on Tuesday evening.

The post said: "It is with a heavy heart that we learn of the devastating news of the passing of our esteemed colleague and friend Geoff Kitchen in the recent Singapore Air Incident.

Families re-unite after safely making it off the plane
Families re-unite after safely making it off the plane. Picture: Getty

"Geoff was always a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity and always did what was right for the group.

"His commitment to TMTG was unquestionable and he has served the group and the local community of Thornbury for over 35 years, holding various offices within the group, including chairman, treasurer and most recently secretary.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and the family at this difficult time, and we ask that you respect their privacy."

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said it was supporting the family of the passenger and was in contact with local authorities.

Singapore Airlines said the flight encountered "sudden extreme turbulence" over Myanmar's Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000ft about 10 hours after departure, with the pilot declaring a medical emergency and diverting the plane to Bangkok.

One passenger on board Flight SQ321 to Singapore said the plane suffered a "dramatic drop", meaning people not wearing a seatbelt were "launched immediately into the ceiling".

Another passenger, Jerry, who was travelling to his son's wedding, told the BBC the day was "the worst of my life".

Speaking with a bandage covering part of his head, he said: "Things were going very smoothly at first. I'd just been to the loo, came back, sat down, bit of turbulence, and suddenly the plane plunged.

"I don't know how far, but it was a long way. (It was) so sudden, there was no warning at all, and I ended up hitting my head on the ceiling, my wife did.

"Some poor people walking around ended up doing somersaults. It was absolutely terrible, and then suddenly it stopped and it was calm again, and the staff did their best to tend to the injured people.

"There were a lot of them and some of the staff are injured themselves, so they did a sterling job."

The 16-year-old Boeing 777 left Heathrow at 10.17pm on Monday and was diverted to Bangkok, landing at 3.45pm local time (9.45am BST) on Tuesday.

There were 211 passengers and 18 crew on board - including 47 passengers from the UK and four Irish nationals.

Flightradar24 said its tracking data showed the plane encountering turbulence at approximately 8.49am BST while flying over Myanmar.

The flight tracking service said data sent from the aircraft showed a "rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event", adding that there were "some severe" thunderstorms in the area at the time.

Aviation consultant John Strickland told the PA news agency that "turbulence happens" but even with millions of flights each year, incidents are "limited" and "fatalities are rare".

He said: "Exposure is greater in different parts of the world.

"The South Atlantic, Africa and the Bay of Bengal are all places that spring to mind where there's a greater incidence.

"There are discussions about whether climate change is influencing an increase in occurrences."

Mr Strickland said airlines use a variety of methods to minimise the chances of a flight being affected by turbulence, such as weather forecasts, radar and reports from aircraft ahead.

A spokesperson for the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: "Our deepest condolences go out to all those who have been affected.

"Accidents of this nature are extremely rare and aviation remains one of the safest forms of travel."

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