‘Extreme Turbulence’ Leaves One Passenger Dead, Multiple Injured on International Flight

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: May 21, 2024

On May 21, 2024, a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore faced severe turbulence. The Boeing 777-300ER, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, encountered “extreme turbulence” over Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Basin.

Passengers felt the plane sharply dip and climb multiple times, causing panic and fear among those on board.

Emergency Diversion to Bangkok

Following the turbulence, the flight diverted to Bangkok, landing at Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 3:45 p.m. local time.

Boeing airplane taking off from a runway

Source: iStock

The pilot quickly declared a medical emergency after the turbulence struck. The diversion allowed for immediate medical attention for the injured passengers.


Casualty and Injuries

Tragically, a 73-year-old British man died during the incident. Suvarnabhumi International Airport General Manager Kittipong Kittikachorn reported that several passengers sustained broken arms, cuts, and bruises.

A close-up of an emergency sign on a hospital building.

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

A total of 71 people were injured, with six in severe condition. The incident caused significant distress among passengers and crew.

Medical Response

Injured passengers were taken to nearby hospitals, including Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital. The hospital confirmed that citizens from countries such as Malaysia, the UK, New Zealand, Spain, the US, and Ireland were among those treated.

The back section of an ambulance is in view, featuring the word 'AMBULANCE' in reverse lettering with 'PARAMEDICS' written above it. The vehicle is adorned with red and white emergency lights, orange and blue reflective stripes, and a blue medical emblem

Source: Erik Mclean/Unsplash

The quick medical response helped stabilize those with severe injuries.

Statements from Officials

Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased, saying, “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.”

An image of several reporters gathered around a man on the street

Source: Wikimedia

Officials assured that support was being provided to the affected passengers and their families.

Investigation Underway

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport is investigating the incident.

A man holds a pen and works on a document while surrounded by beakers with blue liquid

Source: ckstockphoto/Canva

The Transport Safety Investigation Bureau is working with Thai authorities to determine the cause of the turbulence. This investigation aims to improve safety measures and prevent similar incidents in the future.


Insights from FlightRadar24

Flight tracking site FlightRadar24 showed the plane’s sudden altitude changes during the turbulence.

An airplane seen in the sky by clouds during a sunset, which makes the sky orange and red.

Source: Nafis Al Sadnan/Unsplash

The data indicated that the turbulence lasted about 90 seconds, with the aircraft experiencing rapid dips and climbs before stabilizing.


Historical Context of Turbulence

Turbulence incidents are not uncommon. In December 2022, 36 people were injured on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Arizona to Honolulu due to severe turbulence.

An airplane’s wing seen up in the air by white clouds and a teal sky.

Source: matheus mendes/Unsplash

Studies predict an increase in turbulence events globally by 2050-2080, particularly along busy flight routes, emphasizing the need for continuous safety improvements.


Airline Safety Measures

Singapore Airlines is known for its strong safety record. The airline’s only previous fatal accident occurred in October 2000 when flight SQ006 crashed in Taiwan, resulting in 83 deaths.

A commercial airplane is seen from below, flying high in the sky, centered in a vast expanse of light blue with wispy white clouds

Source: E T T T O/Unsplash

This recent incident highlights the importance of ongoing safety protocols and measures to protect passengers.


Passenger Experiences

Passengers described the turbulence as the most severe they had ever experienced. Despite wearing seatbelts, many were thrown around the cabin, suffering injuries.

Passengers sit in their seats and hear an explanation from a flight attendant.

Source: Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash

This event shows the importance of following safety instructions and keeping seatbelts fastened at all times during flights to minimize injury risks.


Singapore Airlines' Response

In response to this incident, Singapore Airlines has provided updates while stating, “Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight.”

A female reporter is pictured writing in her small notepad

Source: Freepik

Its Facebook post also offered resources for those looking for more help: “Relatives seeking information may call the Singapore Airlines hotlines at +65 6542 3311 (Singapore), 1800-845-313 (Australia), and 080-0066-8194 (the United Kingdom).”


Support from Boeing

Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, has offered its support to Singapore Airlines. The company is closely monitoring the situation and assisting in the investigation to ensure all necessary safety protocols were followed.

Exterior view of a modern Boeing corporate office building. The facade features large windows reflecting the overcast sky and is adorned with the Boeing logo at the top center

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“We are in contact with Singapore Airlines regarding flight SQ321 and stand ready to support them,” Boeing stated. “We extend our deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one, and our thoughts are with the passengers and crew.”