Kiwi in ICU after flight turbulence drama

The interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok...
The interior of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Photo: Reuters
A New Zealander is in intensive care in a Thai hospital after being badly injured on a flight that hit severe turbulence on its way to Singapore.

The Singapore Airlines London-Singapore flight diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing on Tuesday (local time) after the plane was buffeted by turbulence that flung passengers and crew around the cabin, slamming some into the ceiling.

A British man died in the incident, from a suspected heart attack.

Bangkok’s Samitivej Hospital has posted an update online regarding the 85 patients transferred to hospitals for treatment in Thailand.

The update said 20 patients remained in the Intensive Care Unit, including one New Zealander. Two other New Zealanders were listed as being in the inpatient department.

Twenty-three Kiwis were on the flight, which had 211 passengers and 18 crew members aboard. 

The family of one New Zealand man told 1News about the moment he was thrown from his seat. He described “violent shaking for 30 seconds and then a massive drop”, 1News said.

The man, who needed 31 stitches, has been discharged from hospital, 1News said.

Photographs of the interior of the plane showed gashes in the overhead cabin panels, oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling and luggage strewn around. A passenger said some people's heads had slammed into the lights above the seats and broken the panels.

"I saw people from across the aisle going completely horizontal, hitting the ceiling and landing back down in like really awkward positions. People, like, getting massive gashes in the head, concussions," Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on the flight, told Reuters.

He was among the 143 passengers and crew who finally reached Singapore yesterday, on a relief flight.

Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said the initial flight encountered sudden extreme turbulence, and the pilot then declared a medical emergency and diverted to Bangkok.

Aircraft tracking provider FlightRadar 24 said the flight encountered "a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event" at 0749 (GMT), based on flight tracking data.

The sudden turbulence occurred over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar, about 10 hours into the flight, Singapore Airlines said.

 - ODT Online/Reuters