Singapore Airlines says 'sorry' after flight turbulence kills 1, injures 71

Singapore Airlines says 'sorry' after flight turbulence kills 1, injures 71

Goh Choon Phong, head of Singapore Airlines, expressed profound regret following a tragic incident on Tuesday when flight SQ321 from London to Singapore encountered “severe extreme turbulence”, resulting in one fatality and numerous injuries.

“On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased,” stated Goh Choon Phong, acknowledging the traumatic ordeal faced by passengers and crew members during the turbulent episode, which compelled an emergency landing in Bangkok, Thailand.

Currently, 79 passengers and six crew members, including 71 individuals receiving medical attention in Bangkok, are undergoing treatment for their injuries. A rescue flight successfully transported the remaining passengers and crew to Singapore early Wednesday morning.

The aircraft, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, experienced severe turbulence over the Indian Ocean, dropping more than 6,000 feet (1800m) in a mere three minutes.

In a video statement released on Wednesday, Goh affirmed the airline’s full cooperation with authorities’ ongoing investigations and expressed his condolences to the family of the victim. He added that they would “render all possible assistance” to affected passengers and crew members.

The incident, occurring approximately 10 hours into the flight over the Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet, led to the unfortunate passing of 73-year-old Briton Geoff Kitchen, suspected to have suffered a heart attack on board. Reports suggest Kitchen and his wife were en route to Singapore for a six-week holiday.

Andrew Davies, a British passenger aboard the Boeing 777-300ER, recounted the harrowing experience, describing a sudden plunge with minimal warning, witnessing fellow passengers sustaining severe injuries, including one with a significant head wound and another “screaming in agony”.

Dzafran Azmir, another passenger, recounted scenes of chaos, saying those not wearing seatbelts were “launched immediately into the ceiling”.

“I saw people from across the aisle just going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in really awkward positions. People getting massive gashes in the head concussions,” Dzafran Azmir told news agency Reuters.

Azmir added that people’s heads had slammed into the overhead panels above the seats and “pushed through” some of the panels.

Under the Montreal Convention, airlines bear strict liability for passenger injuries or fatalities. However, this liability may be mitigated if passengers are found to have contributed to their injuries, such as by disregarding seat belt instructions, according to legal expert Mike Danko.

Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong conveyed heartfelt condolences to the deceased's family and affirmed Singapore's collaboration with Thai authorities. He also pledged a thorough investigation by Singapore's Transport Safety Investigation Bureau.

Notwithstanding this tragedy, Singapore Airlines boasts an impressive safety record, with rare accidents. The last fatal incident dates back to 2000, involving a Boeing 747 mishap during takeoff from an incorrect runway in Taiwan, resulting in 83 casualties out of 179 passengers.