One dead after severe turbulence hits Singapore Airlines flight | CNN (2024)

Bangkok, Thailand CNN

One person has died and at least 71 others were injured on board a Singapore Airlines plane that encountered severe turbulence on a flight from London to Singapore.

The Boeing777-300ER plane diverted to Bangkok, according to a post on the Singapore Airlines Facebook page. It said 211 passengers and 18 crew were on board.

The company said initially in a post that 30 passengers had been hurt in the mid-air disruption and were being treated in hospitals, while other travelers were receiving outpatient care at the airport.

The one person who died was a 73-year-old British man, identified as Geoff Kitchen.

“Preliminary investigations indicate that the deceased suffered from a heart condition,” the General Manager of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport Kittipong Kittikachorn said Tuesday, adding that the autopsy process was still ongoing.

Kitchen’s death was confirmed by the Thornbury Musical Theatre Group (TMTG), an establishment where he worked for over 35 years, in a Facebook post that described him as “always a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity” and who “always did what was right for the group.”

The British Foreign Office told CNN it was supporting the family of a British passenger who died on a Singapore Airlines flight.

The flight landed in the Thai capital at 3:45 p.m. local time (4:45 a.m. ET) Tuesday.

Kittikachorn, who inspected the aircraft, told CNN he was informed of the emergency landing 10 minutes before it touched down. He also said that several passengers had sustained broken arms but that the majority of injuries were cuts and bruises.

Some injured passengers were sent to the nearby Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, Kittikachorn said, adding that almost 200 travelers were waiting to take onward flights to their destinations. A Singapore Airlines plane carrying 131 of the 211 passengers later departed Bangkok for Singapore, he said.

The hospital said in an update that at least 71 people had been injured, including citizens from Malaysia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Spain, the United States and Ireland. It also said six people are severely injured. Earlier,Kittikachorn had said seven people were critically injured.

One dead after severe turbulence hits Singapore Airlines flight | CNN (1)

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, on May 21.

Flight likely encountered rapidly developing thunderstorms

The aviation tracking site FlightRadar24 says, based on its data, that the turbulence on Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 occurred over Myanmar at approximately 7:49 a.m. UTC (3:49 a.m. ET).

This lines up witha statement from the airlinestating that the plane, “encountered sudden extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin [a river in Myanmar] at 37,000 feet, about 10 hours after departure.”

FlightRadar24 said ina blog postthat, according to its data, at that time, ”the flight encountered a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event.”

The data show the flight changing course about 14 minutes later. The airline says, “The pilot declared a medical emergency and diverted the aircraft to Bangkok.”

The FlightRadar24 data show the flight, which was cruising at 37,000 feet, suddenly dipping then rapidly climbing a few hundred feet before dipping and climbing again and then finally settling back at its cruising altitude. The entire disruption took about 90 seconds, according to the data, but resulted in dozens of injuries, including a fatality.

The flight likely encountered rapidly developing thunderstorms over southern Myanmar on Tuesday during the time that extreme turbulence was reported, according to CNNWeatheranalysis.

The analysis of satellite data shows an area of developing thunderstorms over the Irrawaddy Delta between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. GMT (early afternoon local time). This corresponds to the same time and location reported by the airline and independent data analysis of the flight track from FlightRadar24.

Tropicalthunderstorms like these are typical for this time of year with moisture increasing in the region as the southwest monsoon season is beginning in South Asia. They can form quickly in the early afternoon as the land heats up, especially near the coastline.

Budding thunderstorms like Tuesday’s may not appear on radar in their earliest stages, even though the quick rising motion within them can still produce turbulence. The storm cells likely grew from 20,000-30,000 feet to well over 50,000 feet in less than an hour.

Investigations underway

Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam issued a statement on his social media accounts, expressing “condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.”

“We do not have the details of those affected, but know that the government ministries and agencies, as well as SIA, are doing their utmost to support all those affected and working with the authorities in Bangkok, where the plane had been diverted to,” Shanmugaratnam said.

Singapore’s Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tatsaid he was “deeply saddened to learn about the incident,” in a statement posted to his social media.

“Ministry of Transport, Singapore, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and Changi Airport officials as well as SIA [Singapore Airlines] staff are providing support to the affected passengers and their families,” hesaid.

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport said in astatementthat it was investigating the situation involving SQ321 and its Transport Safety Investigation Bureau was in touch with their Thai counterparts.

Turbulence occurs when a plane flies through clashing bodies of air moving at widely different speeds.

With light and moderate turbulence passengers might feel a strain against their seatbelt, and unsecured items could move around the cabin.

But in severe cases turbulence can throw passengers around the cabin, causing severe injuries and occasionally death.

One dead after severe turbulence hits Singapore Airlines flight | CNN (2)

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, on May 21.

In March 2023,violent movementson a private jetresulted in the death of a former White House official, though an investigation later found that weather was not involved in that incident.That incident came just daysafter seven people were transported to hospitals after aseparate commercial flighthit significant turbulence.

A Singapore airline aircraft is seen on tarmac after requesting an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. Pongsak Suksi/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Pongsak Suksi/Reuters Related article How air turbulence creates danger in the skies

In July 2023, seven people were injured on a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Sydney, Australia, when the plane was buffeted by severe turbulence, and 36 peoplewere injured on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Arizona to Honolulu in December 2022, with 20 people taken to emergency rooms.

A September 2022 study predicts that clear-air turbulence will increase significantly around the globe by the period 2050-2080, in particular along the busiest flight routes, and the strongest type of turbulence will increase the most.

Singapore Airlines is often considered one of the world’s safest carriers.

Its only previous fatal accident was in October 2000 when flight SQ006 crashed when the Boeing 747-400 took off from a closed runway in Taiwan amid heavy rain, killing 83 on board.

Singapore Airlines said later Tuesday that a dedicated team had arrived in Bangkok “to support our colleagues and the local authorities on the ground” in an update on its Facebook page.

The flight operator expressed its “deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologize for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight.”

Boeing has said it is in touch with the Singaporean carrier and is “ready to support them.” The manufacturer is deferring further questions to the airline and local authorities.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described a March 2023 incident involving a private jet. The National Transportation Safety Board later ruled weather had not been involved in the violent movements of that plane.

CNN’s Jack Guy, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Steven Jiang, Catherine Nicholls, Ross Levitt, Hamdi Alkhshali, Brandon Miller and Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this report.

One dead after severe turbulence hits Singapore Airlines flight | CNN (2024)


How many died on the Singapore flight? ›

A Singapore Airlines flight from London was diverted to Bangkok, where more than 70 people were being treated for injuries. Claire Moses reported from London, and Muktita Suhartono from Bangkok.

What happened on Singapore Airlines flight 006? ›

On October 31, 2000, a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 crashed into construction equipment on a closed runway. The disaster occurred as the jumbo jet attempted to take off from Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport. The wreckage of Singapore Airlines Flight 006, which crashed in October 2000.

Has any flight crashed due to turbulence? ›

The Singapore Airlines flight dropped more than 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) in just five minutes over the Andaman Sea after being hit by turbulence. A Singapore Airlines flight hit an air-pocket on May 21 and encountered severe turbulence, which left one person dead and several injured.

Where did Singapore Airlines hit turbulence? ›

An airline official said that about 10 hours into its flight, the plane had encountered "sudden extreme turbulence" over Myanmar's Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet.

Has Singapore Airlines ever had a fatal crash? ›

Its last accident resulting in casualties was a flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Taipei, where it crashed on Oct. 31, 2000 at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, killing 83 of the 179 people on board.

What airline has the least deaths? ›

Ryanair. Irish low-cost airline Ryanair was established in 1984 and began commercial operations. The airline has never had a fatal crash and was named the world's safest airline in 2018.

Did the pilots of Singapore Airlines Flight 006 survive? ›

The captain, co-pilot, and relief pilot originated from Singapore on another SQ006 flight the day before the accident, rested at a hotel in Taipei, and boarded SQ006 on 31 October. All three flight crew members survived the crash.

What airline had severe turbulence? ›

BANGKOK (AP) — Passengers on the Singapore Airlines flight that descended sharply after hitting severe turbulence described the “sheer terror” of the aircraft shuddering, loose items flying and people wrenched so badly that 20 remained Wednesday in intensive care.

What happened to the passengers on Flight 261? ›

On January 31, 2000, about 1621 Pacific standard time, Alaska Airlines Flight 261, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83, N963AS, crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 2.7 miles north of Anacapa Island, California. All 88 people on board were killed and the airplane was destroyed on impact.

Can turbulence bring down a plane? ›

Aircraft are designed to take the worst that turbulence can throw at them, says Mr Gratton, associate professor of aviation and the environment at Cranfield University. It's "unlikely" turbulence will ever destroy an aircraft, he adds.

Can turbulence break a wing? ›

To date, there are no reported cases of wings being snapped by extreme turbulence except for the BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) Boeing 707 crash which occurred on 5 March 1966 near Mount Fuji in Japan.

What's the worst that can happen in turbulence? ›

Occupants of the airplane will be forced violently against their seat belts. In extreme turbulence, the airplane is tossed violently about and is impossible to control. It may cause structural damage. Aircraft is violently tossed about and practically impossible to control.

What is the most turbulent flight in the world? ›

Below are the top 10 most turbulent journeys in the world in full, according to Turbli data:
  • Centrair (NGO) - Sendai (SDJ)
  • Milan (MXP) - Geneva (GVA)
  • Lanzhou (LHW) - Xianyang (XIY)
  • Osaka (KIX) - Sendai (SDJ)
  • Xianyang (XIY) - Chengdu (CTU)
  • Xianyang (XIY) - Chongqing (CKG)
  • Milan (MXP) - Zurich (ZRH)
1 day ago

Do pilots fly through severe turbulence? ›

Many pilots also look at the upper-level jet streams along their route for signs of wind shear, then plan to fly above, below or around those areas, he said. Modern planes are strong enough to handle just about any turbulence.

Are flights more turbulent now? ›

And it's likely only going to get worse due to climate change, climate and aviation experts have noted. There is strong evidence that turbulence is increasing because of climate change, Williams said, citing his own research that severe clear-air turbulence in the North Atlantic has increased by 55 per cent since 1979.

How many crashes has Singapore Airlines had? ›

Accidents involving Singapore Airlines are rare, with the carrier consistently ranking among the world's safest. The last fatal accident occurred in 2000, when a Boeing 747 crashed while attempting to take off from the wrong runway at a Taiwan airport. Some 83 people of the 179 people onboard were killed.

Did the pilots of Singapore Airlines flight 006 survive? ›

The captain, co-pilot, and relief pilot originated from Singapore on another SQ006 flight the day before the accident, rested at a hotel in Taipei, and boarded SQ006 on 31 October. All three flight crew members survived the crash.

How many died on flight 11? ›

American Airlines Flight 11
Passengers81 (including 5 hijackers)
17 more rows

What is the longest surviving airline in the world? ›

During World War II, KLM stopped operating in Europe, but continued in the West Indies as Dutch Caribbean colonies were not occupied by Nazi Germany. Merged with Air France in 2004 to form Air France–KLM. The airline is the "Oldest operating airline".

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