Singapore Airlines Emergency: Survivors Recount Turbulence Horror

When Eva Khoo received a phone call last week about an “incident” involving the Singapore Airlines flight her family was on, she was initially told not to worry. However, hours after the emergency landing in Bangkok, the 47-year-old still couldn’t reach her brother and pregnant sister-in-law, who were on the London-to-Singapore flight along with a friend and four other family members.

Late that night, she finally heard from her brother, who sent a single, alarming phrase: “ICU.” Then, communication ceased, heightening her anxiety. Her sister-in-law later contacted her from the hospital but did not know the whereabouts of the rest of their group.

The flight had encountered “unexpected severe turbulence,” resulting in one passenger’s death mid-air and nearly 50 others, including two crew members and a toddler, being hospitalized, many with serious injuries. Over 20 were admitted to intensive care with spinal injuries.

Tuesday night was “nerve-wracking,” Ms. Khoo recounted. “We had no idea if our loved ones were dead or alive, or how bad their injuries were.” The next day, she discovered all seven family members were hospitalized in Bangkok, with five in the intensive care unit at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital.

Determined to be with her family, Ms. Khoo flew to Thailand from Kuala Lumpur, where she lives. “I was relieved to finally meet them, but it was dreadful to see many of them in neck and head braces due to their spinal and back injuries.”

It took her several more days to learn what exactly had happened on the flight. Khoo Boo Leong and his wife Saw Rong were returning from a two-week trip to Switzerland and London. Singapore was a transit stop on their way back to Malaysia. The flight, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, was in its tenth hour, passing over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar when the turbulence hit.

Ms. Khoo’s brother recalled that the plane began shaking violently. “He scrambled to find his seatbelt, but before he could secure it, he was lifted to the ceiling, hitting the overhead luggage compartment, then crashed down into the aisle. Their belongings were scattered everywhere,” she said.

Khoo and his wife were seated near the center of the plane. Ms. Saw, who is two months pregnant, was thrown from her seat, resulting in fractures to her back that required surgery.

Rows ahead, Keith Davis, who was on board with his wife Kerry Jordan, described experiencing a “zero-gravity situation” during the turbulence.

“We were launched into space, hurtling towards the ceiling. It felt as though we were floating,” said Mr. Davis, speaking to the BBC from a hospital in Bangkok. He had a black eye and his head was bandaged.

“[We] were suspended in complete shock and disbelief, looking at everything floating around. And then the next moment, you realize you’re hurtling straight back down… It was absolutely horrific,” said the 59-year-old Australian.

Ms. Jordan, 52, was thrown into the aisle. The impact on her spine was so severe that she had to lie there for the rest of the journey, even as the plane landed.

“I leaned over her and asked, ‘Are you okay?’ She was able to speak quite softly… And then I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m dripping blood all over her dress,'” he recounted.

Ms. Jordan still held a piece of the seatbelt in her hand. “The girl behind us was crying out in extreme pain. I didn’t know what to do. I just felt absolutely useless,” Mr. Davis said.

Ali Bukhari, who was seated with his wife Ramiza, said the plane “went into that straight freefall.”

“It was terrifying. It’s just like going down a vertical roller coaster. Oxygen masks had all come out, parts of the interior of the plane were damaged… I thought that was from the force of the turbulence, but a lot of it was just because everyone who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt flew right into the air and hit the ceiling,” said the 27-year-old Australian, speaking to the BBC from Sydney.

“We saw blood on the ceiling… It was just complete havoc. A lot of people were on the floor,” he added.

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