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1 dead, 30 injured due to severe turbulence on Singapore Airlines flight

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One person is dead, and 30 are injured after a Singapore Airlines flight faced severe turbulence.

“We can confirm that there are injuries and one fatality on board the Boeing 777-300ER,” the airline said in a statement. “There were a total of 211 passengers and 18 crew on board.”

The man who died was a 73-year-old British man who likely died of a heart attack, reports Reuters. Seven people are said to be critically injured.

Flight SQ321 departed from London’s Heathrow Airport on Monday and was supposed to land in Singapore, but instead was diverted to Thailand and landed at 3:45 p.m. local time on Tuesday after requesting an emergency landing.

According to an update the airline posted on its Facebook page, the rest of the passengers, the majority of whom were from Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore, and the crew were being evaluated and treated as needed by medical personnel at the airport.

In its third update posted to Facebook, the airline announced that a Singapore Airlines team arrived in Bangkok from Singapore to “support our colleagues and the local authorities on the ground.”

They added that they are providing assistance to the passengers and crew that were on board the flight at the hospital and airport. The airline previously stated that 18 passengers were hospitalized due to the incident.

Climate change making turbulence worse: But here’s why you shouldn’t worry (too much)

Four Americans were on board the flight, the airline said.

“Our priority is to provide all possible assistance to all passengers and crew on board the aircraft,” the airline said. “We are working with the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary medical assistance, and sending a team to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed.”

Singapore Airlines also stated that it is working with “relevant authorities” to investigate the incident.

The airline added that Relatives of the passengers can call Singapore Airlines’ hotlines at +65 6542 3311 (Singapore), 1800-845-313 (Australia), and 080-0066-8194 (the United Kingdom).

“Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” said the airline’s press release. “We deeply apologize for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight.

What happened on flight SQ321?

The plane began to experience “sudden extreme turbulence” at 37,000 feet about 10 hours after it departed Heathrow. The pilot called for an emergency landing, according to the update posted to the airline’s Facebook.

The flight landed Tuesday afternoon local time at Bangkok’s airport, Suvarnabhumi International, after it fell into an air pocket, reports Reuters.

A passenger told Reuters they felt the sensation of falling and rising during the event.

Dzafran Azmir, a 28-year-old student on board the flight, told the outlet there was a drop and people who were not wearing seatbelts were launched into the ceiling.

“Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up, and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening,” said Azmir.

The student adds that people’s heads shot through the cabins overhead and dented or broke them.

Photos and videos circulating on social media show the purported damage to flight SQ321 after it experienced the turbulence.

Who were the passengers?

The passengers on board are from the following countries, according to the airline:

◾ 56 from Australia

◾ 47 from the United Kingdom

◾ 41 from Singapore

◾ 23 from New Zealand

◾ 16 from Malaysia

◾ Five from the Philippines

◾ Four from Ireland

◾ Four from the United States

◾ Three from India

◾ Two from Canada

◾ Two from Indonesia

◾ Two from Myanmar

◾ Two from Spain

◾ One from Germany

◾ One from Iceland

◾ One from Israel

◾ One from South Korea

Boeing’s response

In a tweet, Boeing, the creator of the plane that experienced the turbulence, said it is in contact with SIA and is ready to support the airline.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one,” it tweeted. “And our thoughts are with the passengers and crew.”

Is turbulence getting worse?

Unfortunately, yes. Climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of turbulence as the planet warms and winds intensify.

“The atmosphere is getting more turbulent; there will be more severe turbulence in the atmosphere,” Paul Williams, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Reading previously told USA TODAY.

Turbulence is also becoming more unpredictable in some ways, as so-called clear air turbulence, the kind that happens outside of storm systems, increases the most. That kind of turbulence can be harder for pilots to avoid than choppy air associated with storms because it’s less visible with radar and other forecasting tools.

Even so, Williams said, turbulent air remains relatively uncommon at flight altitudes, so it’s unlikely for passengers to be involved in an incident like the one that affected Flight 321.

“The absolute amount of turbulence is small,” he said.

How can travelers stay safe in turbulence?

The best way to avoid injuries or worse from turbulence is to stay seated whenever the fasten seat belt sign is on, and to buckle up whenever seated on a plane, even if the sign is off.

Unsecured passengers and objects being thrown around are the biggest injury risk factors during turbulence.

“The people who are not strapped in now also become projectiles themselves and can harm people when they come back down,” she said. “I know plenty of flight attendants who have had career-ending injuries from turbulence,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, previously told USA TODAY.

Planes themselves are designed to structurally withstand turbulence much more severe than what pilots will ever intentionally fly through. The people and objects inside the cabin that pose the most danger at that point.

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