One Dead, Many More Injured on Boeing Flight to Singapore

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( – Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 encountered “sudden and extreme turbulence” before being diverted to the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday, May 21st. The plane carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members touched down in Bangkok at 3:45 PM local time.

Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok reported treating a total of 71 people from the plane. Six of those treated sustained severe injuries. One passenger, a 73-year-old British man, died from an apparent heart attack. His official cause of death has not been determined.

The plane, a Boeing 777-300ER was en route from London to Singapore when tracking data indicated a sudden drop in altitude from 37,000 feet to 31,000 feet in a three-minute time span. The drop occurred just as the plane crossed the Andaman Sea approaching the Thai coast, about 10 hours into the flight.

Thunderstorms were reported in the area where the drop occurred. Turbulence can be caused by fluctuations in air pressure and temperature caused by thunderstorms, resulting in powerful currents of fast-moving air.

According to former NTSB chair Robert Sumwalt it is “extremely rare” for a turbulence event to cause a fatality. The analyst for CBS also said the “in-flight upset” could have been caused by atmospheric turbulence or the “result of something else.” The incident is under investigation.

Witnesses said the plane plummeted so suddenly that anyone not wearing a seatbelt was thrown against the cabin ceiling and baggage compartments. Passengers and crew struck the ceiling hard enough to dent the baggage compartments and break the covers over the oxygen masks and lights. The “fasten seatbelt” sign lit up before the plane suddenly fell but there was not enough warning for all passengers and crew to become seated and fasten their seatbelts. Crew members were serving a meal at the time of the incident.

Andrew Davies, a passenger on the flight said the experience was “awful” and emphasized that airline passengers should “wear a seatbelt at ALL TIMES.”

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