Singapore Airlines flight passengers describe nightmare at 37,000 feet

(CNN) — Passengers on a Singapore Airlines flight hit by severe turbulence on Tuesday described a sudden and dramatic plunge as “all hell broke loose” aboard the Boeing plane carrying 229 passengers and crew.


Flight SQ321 was cruising at 37,000 feet from London to Singapore when flight tracking data shows the plane sank rapidly before climbing several hundred feet, then repeating the dive and climb, for about 90 seconds.

At first, “the flight was perfectly normal,” said passenger Andrew Davies, who was traveling to New Zealand on business. He described the flight as “pretty calm…I don’t remember any turbulence at all.”

Many passengers were having breakfast at the time of the incident.

Then, about nine or ten hours into the roughly 13-hour flight, he was watching a movie when he saw the seat belt sign light up, so he put his seat belt on. “Thank God I did it because within moments of doing it, all hell broke loose,” she told CNN.

“The plane felt like it was falling. It probably only lasted a few seconds, but I vividly remember seeing shoes, iPads, iPhones, cushions, blankets, cutlery, plates and cups flying through the air and crashing into the ceiling. The gentleman next to me picked up a cup of coffee, which fell on me and went up to the ceiling,” Davies said.

Later images of the plane show the cabin in disarray, with papers, glasses and water jugs scattered on the floor, and ceiling panels and pipes hanging loose.

The interior of Singapore Airline Flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 21. (Credit: Reuters)

Davies was sitting at the front of the plane and witnessed some of the injuries suffered by dozens of passengers, including Geoff Kitchen, a 73-year-old Briton who died on the flight.

“That gentleman was sitting right behind me,” he said. “A lot of people needed help, but we took care of this gentleman, I helped him pick him up, get him out of the seat and lay him on the floor so some medical professionals could give him CPR.”

Kitchen was given CPR for about 20 minutes, Davies said. Meanwhile, he said, “there was so much screaming” and people’s injuries were evident; When she turned around, he saw a passenger with “a big cut on his head and blood running down his face” and another elderly passenger in “severe shock.”

Another passenger, student Dzafran Azmir, 28, told Reuters the plane had begun to “tilt” and shake.

“Suddenly there was a very dramatic fall, so everyone who was sitting and without a seat belt was immediately thrown towards the roof,” he told Reuters. “Some people hit their heads on the luggage cabins above and dented them, hit the places where the lights and masks are and went through them.”

Azmir added that everything was “very, very fast, so I don’t think anyone could respond.” People didn’t have time to react, he said: There were passengers in the plane’s bathrooms and the crew still standing when the turbulence hit.

The plane was diverted to Bangkok after the incident. Of the 211 passengers and 18 crew members aboard the original flight, 143 were transported on a relief flight to Singapore, where they landed early Wednesday, according to Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong in a video message posted on Facebook.

The remaining 79 passengers and 6 crew members are still in Bangkok, including those receiving medical care and their families.

Among the injured are citizens of Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Spain, the United States and Ireland, according to the hospital where they were treated.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, general manager of Bangkok airport, said Tuesday that preliminary investigations suggest Kitchen was suffering from heart disease and that the autopsy process is ongoing.

Several passengers suffered broken arms, but most of the injuries were cuts and bruises, he added.

Goh, the chief executive, expressed his condolences to Kitchen’s family and loved ones, saying the airline was “deeply saddened by this incident” and “very sorry for the traumatic experience” passengers endured.

The airline is cooperating with authorities in the investigation, he added.

Singapore’s Transport Ministry is investigating the incident and said Tuesday it was in contact with its Thai counterparts and would send investigators to Bangkok. The US National Transportation Safety Board is also sending staff to Singapore to assist in the investigation, including a board representative and four technical advisers.

 
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