Singapore Airlines passengers remain in intensive care with spinal and brain injuries

Thai hospital outlines severity of incident on board flight, which left one man dead

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At least 20 passengers and crew on a Singapore Airlines flight that experienced extreme turbulence in Asia remain in intensive care, with several needing surgery for brain injuries and spinal cord damage.

The Boeing 777-300ER hit what an airline official described as “sudden extreme turbulence” over Myanmar, sending passengers and crew flying, with some slamming into the ceiling.

A 73-year-old British man died while 104 people were injured on the flight, which was carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew from London to Singapore on Tuesday.

Adinun Kittiratanapaibool, director of Bangkok's Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, said his staff were treating six people for skull and brain injuries, 22 for spinal injuries, and 13 for bone, muscle and other injuries.

They include six Britons, six Malaysians, three Australians, two Singaporeans and one person each from Hong Kong, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Other hospitals nearby have been asked to lend their best specialists to assist in the treatment of those injured.

The injured at the hospital range in age from two to 83, he added. None of the ICU patients are in a life-threatening condition.

Seventeen surgeries have already been performed – nine spinal surgeries and eight for other injuries, he said. Several more will need further surgery.

Asked about the prognosis for the most serious cases, Mr Adinun said it was too early to tell if any could suffer permanent paralysis, and doctors would have to observe whether muscle function recovers after surgery.

Passenger accounts are still emerging after the incident in which the plane plummeted 1,800 metres (6,000 feet) in a few minutes, with too little warning for many passengers to fasten their seat belts.

“I fell on to the floor, I didn't realise what happened,” Josh Silverstone, 24, a Briton on his way to the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, told reporters.

“I must have hit my head somewhere. Everyone was screaming on the plane. People were scared.

“I turned on the plane Wi-Fi that I bought and texted my mum to say 'I love you',” he added after leaving hospital, where he was treated for a cut to the head, on Wednesday.

Singapore Airlines chief executive Goh Choon Phong has apologised for the “traumatic experience” and expressed condolences to the family of the deceased.

Photos taken inside the plane after it landed in Bangkok show the cabin in chaos, strewn with food, drinks and luggage, and with oxygen masks dangling from the damaged ceiling.

A relief flight took 131 passengers and 12 crew to Singapore's Changi Airport on Wednesday to continue their journeys or return home.

These incidents follow others this year during which severe turbulence has caused injuries.

Flightradar24 said its tracking data showed the plane encountering turbulence at about 8.49am BST while flying over Myanmar.

The flight-tracking service said data sent from the aircraft showed a “rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event”, adding that there were “some severe” thunderstorms in the area at the time.

Updated: May 24, 2024, 7:33 AM