"Everyone’s pretty freaked out…The pilots saved our lives”: SQ321 passenger on turbulence-hit flight, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

"Everyone’s pretty freaked out…The pilots saved our lives”: SQ321 passenger on turbulence-hit flight

Passengers and crew aboard a Singapore Airlines flight on May 20 were midway through a routine breakfast service when the plane plunged without warning, throwing things in the cabin, even people, everywhere.

The bout of severe turbulence, which occurred about 10 hours into the flight of SQ321 from London to Singapore, left a scene of chaos in the plane, with dents in the overhead cabin panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling and luggage strewn about.

“I saw people from across the aisle going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in really awkward positions. People, like, getting massive gashes in the head, concussions,” passenger Dzafran Azmir, 28, told Reuters after arriving in Singapore.

Passengers told reporters they saw heads slamming into the overhead lights – in some cases the impact was forceful enough to dent the panels.

One passenger, who described what happened as the worst day of his life, said things were going “very smoothly” up until the moment of turbulence.

“And suddenly, the plane plunged,” he told the BBC, adding that he had just returned from the restroom and that there was “no warning at all”.

He and his wife ended up hitting their heads on the ceiling, as they witnessed other passengers who were walking around forced into “somersaults”.

The passenger also said that the crew, despite being injured themselves, did their best to tend to injured passengers and did a “sterling job”.

The incident, which left one passenger dead and many others injured, caused the flight to be diverted to Bangkok, Thailand.

There were 211 passengers on the flight, which included 41 Singaporeans. The others were from countries such as Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Britain. There were also 18 crew members on board.

Passenger Drew Kessler shared on Facebook a photograph of his water bottle lodged in the ceiling of the plane.

“The picture shows my water bottle stuck in the ceiling of the airplane, next to where I hit,” he wrote in a post on May 22.

Mr Kessler, who had been travelling with his family, said he suffered a broken neck, while his wife “got the worst of it and has a broken back”.

Despite both being in “a lot of pain” and awaiting test results at a hospital in Bangkok, he said the family is in “good spirits” and that his children were unharmed.

“Clearly things could have been worse and we feel blessed,” he said.

Earlier tonight Vicki Kessler our boys Jackson and Brandon and I were on the Singapore airlines flight SQ321 from London...

Posted by Drew Kessler on Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Also among those on board was Singaporean Bobby Chin, a former member of the Council of Presidential Advisers. He told The Straits Times that he and his wife were both injured during the incident.

Australian Teandra Tukhunen said she was abruptly woken up when she was “thrown to the roof and then to the floor”.

Speaking to British news outlet Sky News at Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, she said that the ordeal happened “pretty much immediately” after the seatbelt sign came on, leaving her with little time to fasten her seatbelt.

The 30-year-old, who had her arm in a sling, said: “It was just so quick, over in a couple of seconds and then you’re just shocked. Everyone’s pretty freaked out…The pilots saved our lives.”

Another passenger, who was lying in a trolley in the same hospital, said: “I don’t think I’ll be flying again for a while,” adding that the ordeal was “quite scary”.

Recounting the incident, he described hearing a loud noise before things came crashing through the ceiling, water began spilling everywhere and people started crying.

“It wasn’t a fun end to the journey,” he said. He added that he was in “a lot of pain”, and felt even worse after word of the dead passenger sank in.

SIA has since brought 131 passengers and 12 crew members to Singapore through a relief flight early in the morning of May 22.

The father of a Singaporean passenger told ST on May 22 at Singapore Changi Airport that his 22-year-old son had been on the aircraft with his girlfriend when the turbulence hit.

His son had said he was “thrown all over the place”, but was all right save for a few knocks, said the 57-year-old, who works in the logistics industry and wanted to be known only as Mr Chew.

Mr Chew, his wife, his son, as well as the younger Mr Chew’s girlfriend and her loved ones were later seen embracing one another in the arrival hall, before leaving together.

The dead passenger has been identified as a 73-year-old Briton, Mr Geoffrey Kitchen. He was a retired insurance professional and musical theatre director, according to British reports.

The father-of-two and his wife, who was also on the flight and later taken to hospital, were en route to a six-week holiday and were intending to visit Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Australia.

Thornbury Musical Theatre Group, which Mr Kitchen helped run for over 35 years, said in a Facebook post on May 21 (May 22 Singapore time) that his commitment to the group was “unquestionable”.

“Geoff was always a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity and always did what was right for the group,” the group said.