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Singapore

SIA flight SQ321: One Singaporean hospitalized locally, 20 others remain in Bangkok

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  • Severe turbulence on Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321 resulted in significant injuries and one fatality.
  • The airline has implemented stricter safety measures and modified its flight route to prevent future incidents.
  • Adhering to in-flight safety protocols, such as wearing seatbelts, is crucial for passenger safety during turbulence.

On May 21, 2024, Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321, en route from London to Singapore, encountered severe turbulence that led to a dramatic altitude drop of 54 meters in just under five seconds. This sudden event resulted in one Singaporean passenger being admitted to a local hospital, while 20 others remain hospitalized in Bangkok.

The turbulence struck as the Boeing 777-300ER was flying over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar, approximately ten hours into the flight. The aircraft experienced a rapid change in gravitational force, causing unbelted passengers to become airborne and then crash back down as the plane descended. The vertical acceleration shifted from negative 1.5G to positive 1.5G within a span of four seconds, leading to significant injuries among passengers and crew members.

Emergency Response and Medical Assistance

Following the incident, the flight was diverted to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport for immediate medical assistance. Singapore Airlines promptly acknowledged the severity of the situation and expressed its commitment to supporting the affected passengers and crew. The airline covered medical and hospital expenses and provided additional assistance as needed.

As of late Tuesday, 45 individuals from the flight were still in Bangkok, including 28 passengers receiving medical treatment in hospitals. Among those initially hospitalized were patients with spinal cord injuries and some with brain and skull injuries. Thai medical officials reported that the injuries ranged from minor to severe, with some passengers requiring intensive care.

Passenger Experiences and Reactions

Passengers recounted the chaos that ensued during the turbulence. Eva Khoo, whose family was on board, described the harrowing experience of not knowing the fate of her loved ones for hours. Her brother and pregnant sister-in-law were among those severely injured, with both requiring intensive care. Ms. Khoo's brother sustained spinal injuries, while his wife, who is two months pregnant, suffered fractures to her back that necessitated surgery.

Keith Davis and his wife, Kerry Jordan, also shared their ordeal. They were thrown into a 'zero-gravity situation' before crashing back down, resulting in severe spinal injuries for Ms. Jordan. The couple described the interior of the plane as being heavily damaged, with oxygen masks deployed and luggage scattered.

Airline and Regulatory Response

In response to the incident, Singapore Airlines has adopted a more cautious approach to managing in-flight turbulence. The airline has modified its seatbelt policy and ceased hot drink and meal services when the seatbelt signs are activated. Additionally, the flight route between London and Singapore has been altered to avoid the area where the turbulence occurred.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, with a team comprising Singaporean investigators, representatives from Boeing, and officials from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Preliminary findings indicate that the turbulence was likely caused by developing convective activity, which is linked to temperature shifts in the air.

Importance of In-Flight Safety Measures

This incident underscores the critical importance of adhering to in-flight safety measures, such as wearing seatbelts at all times. Turbulence-related incidents are the most frequent type of accident commercial airlines encounter, but severe injuries are relatively rare. However, when they do occur, the consequences can be dire, as evidenced by the injuries sustained by passengers on Flight SQ321.

Singapore Airlines has reiterated its commitment to passenger safety and support. The airline has pledged to assist those affected by the incident, including covering their medical expenses and providing additional support as needed. The safety and well-being of passengers and crew remain the airline's top priority.

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