British grandfather dies after ‘severe’ turbulence hits London to Singapore flight

Geoffrey Kitchen
Geoffrey Kitchen was a well-known member of the local community in Thornbury, Glos

A retired British grandfather was killed and 60 others were injured after a flight from Heathrow to Singapore was hit by severe turbulence.

Geoffrey Ralph Kitchen, 73, died after the aircraft suffered a “dramatic drop”, with those not wearing seat belts “launched immediately into the ceiling”.

The Singapore Airlines flight was forced to perform an emergency landing at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where Thai authorities described encountering a “chaotic” scene.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, the general manager of Suvarnabhumi Airport, said Mr Kitchen, who has two grown up children and two grandchildren, suffered a suspected heart attack.

He was travelling with his wife of more than 50 years, Linda, who has been transferred to hospital for treatment.

Footage shows ambulances racing towards the runway after a passenger died  - British man dies after 'severe' turbulence hits London to Singapore flight
Severe turbulence that hit a London to Singapore flight left one man dead and many injured, with Bangkok emergency services tending to those affected - VIralPress

Mr Kitchen was the trustee and the secretary of a musical theatre group in the market town of Thornbury in Glos.

The couple lived at the semi-detached home they had purchased in 2009 and he was a well-known member of the local community. He had lived in the town for more than 30 years and last May stood in the Thornbury Town Council elections as an independent candidate for the North East Ward.

During his campaign he described how his local town was “a good place to bring up a family and it clearly still has that draw for new families” and pledged to support the arts, the environment and young people.

Mr Kittikachorn reported seven “critical” injuries, 23 “immediate injuries”, and a further 30 “minor injuries”.

Images posted on social media showed damage to the cabin’s ceiling, and food, cutlery and other debris strewn across the floor.

Andrew Davies, from Lewisham, said fellow passengers received “very little warning” to put on their seat belts.

He described seeing many injured, some with head lacerations and bleeding ears. “A lady was screaming in pain with a bad back,” he said.

Singapore Airlines said the Boeing 777-300ER took off from London’s Heathrow airport and “encountered severe turbulence en route”.

“We can confirm that there are injuries and one fatality on board,” a spokesman said, offering the airline’s “deepest condolences to the family of the deceased”.

There were 211 passengers and 18 crew on board Flight SQ321, which took off from Heathrow at 10.17pm on Monday.

The Boeing jet diverted to Bangkok around 90 minutes prior to its intended arrival in Singapore, making an emergency landing in the Thai capital at around 4pm local time.

Mr Kittikachorn said: “We followed the protocol and went in and found lots of injuries and a fatality”.

Airport officials enacted an emergency action plan and “evacuated the passengers right away”, he said.

The airport’s medical team rushed to the tarmac and tended to the injured, with waiting ambulances transferring them to a local hospital for further treatment.

Emergency services arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok
Passengers were in shock after a flight from London to Singapore was hit by severe turbulence
Airport staff brace for the flight's arrival
Airport staff brace for the flight's arrival - ViralPress/ViralPress

Around 100 passengers were preparing to board a new flight out of Bangkok on Tuesday.

Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on board the flight, described how the plane suddenly began “tilting up” and “shaking”.

“I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling,” he said.

“Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it,” he said.

Mr Davies, a freelance project manager, said: “Anyone who is injured was not wearing a seatbelt. People who kept them on (including me) are not (as far as I could tell).”

“My heart goes out to the gentleman who lost his life and his poor wife. Awful experience,” he said.

He described how passengers with medical training tried to help “as much as they could”, including administering CPR to Mr Kitchen.

Emergency responders give aid to passengers
Emergency responders give aid to passengers - UNPIXS/UNPIXS

The aircraft encountered extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin about 10 hours after its departure from London.
Flight tracking data showed the plane falling around 5,000ft from a cruising altitude of 37,000ft within minutes.

Current aviation weather reports indicate thunderstorms reaching up to 51,000ft are spread across western Thailand and well down into the Gulf of Thailand, a distance of around 475 miles.

Last week, a British Airways flight was forced to return to Singapore after encountering heavy turbulence.

One crew member reportedly needed surgery to her ankle after she was injured during the flight.

On June 28 last year, two British Airways cabin crew suffered broken legs when a flight from Singapore to Heathrow was affected by severe turbulence over the Bay of Bengal.