British passenger's death prompts Singapore Airlines to enhance in-flight safety measures

The flight involved a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 (PA)
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Singapore Airlines has tightened its seatbelt policies following the tragic death of a British passenger and injuries to others during severe turbulence. The carrier is now instructing all cabin crew to fasten their seatbelts when flying through rough patches and will halt meal services in such conditions.

The airline announced it would adopt a "more cautious approach to managing turbulence in-flight" after a Boeing 777 en route to Singapore encountered violent turbulence over the Irrawaddy basin on Tuesday, causing chaos inside the aircraft.

Their statement clarified: "In addition to the suspension of hot beverage service when the seat belt sign is on, the meal service will also be suspended. Crew members will also return to their seats and secure their seat belts when the seat belt sign is on."

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During the incident, the plane, which was carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew, plunged 6,000 feet in roughly three minutes, leading to an emergency landing in Thailand. It's believed that the turbulence struck while meals were being served and many passengers were not buckled up.

Geoffrey Ralph Kitchen, aged 73 from Thornbury, Gloucestershire, died from what is suspected to be a heart attack. As of Friday, 46 passengers and two crew members were still receiving medical care, reports the Mirror.

Passengers recounted the "sheer terror" they experienced as the aircraft shook violently, with items flying around and injured individuals strewn across the plane's floor. Singapore Airlines has highlighted additional safety protocols during adverse weather, such as securing loose objects and advising passengers to fasten their seatbelts, while also ensuring that crew members are prepared to assist those in need and maintain cabin safety.

"Pilots and cabin crew are aware of the hazards associated with turbulence. They are also trained to assist customers and ensure cabin safety throughout the flight. Singapore Airlines will continue to review our processes as the safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance," the airline stated.

Singapore Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat informed local reporters that investigators in Bangkok have obtained crucial data from the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.

"They are going through the data from these two recorders now to be able to ascertain what happened during those moments," Chee said to the press.

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The cause of Tuesday's severe turbulence remains a mystery, though it's suspected to have been clear air turbulence - the most perilous type that often strikes without any visible warning in the sky. This can occur in thin cirrus clouds or even in clear air near thunderstorms, as temperature and pressure differences generate powerful currents of swift-moving air.

Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, which treated the majority of the 104 people injured in the incident, revealed that the 48 individuals still receiving treatment include those with spinal or spinal cord damage, skull or brain injuries, and harm to bones or internal organs.

Twenty passengers are still in intensive care, but the hospital reassured that none are in a life-threatening condition. Among them are six Brits, six Malaysians, three Australians, two Singaporeans, and one individual each from Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Singapore Airlines has expressed profound regret over the incident. Its CEO, Goh Choon Phong, has vowed full cooperation in the investigation and has visited the hospitalised victims to extend his support.