British student tells of her terror on turbulence-hit Singapore Airlines flight as 20 remain in intensive care


A British student says she “froze with terror” as she was catapulted out of her seat by severe turbulence on a flight to Singapore.

Flight SQ321 from Heathrow plunged 6,000ft in just three minutes, causing Mia Stevenson, 22, and others to smash their heads on the ceiling.

Images posted on social media showed damage to the cabin, and food, cutlery and other debris strewn on the floor after the incident.

Briton Geoff Kitchen, 73, died from a suspected heart attack.

Some 79 passengers and six crew members are receiving medical treatment. On Wednesday 20 remained in intensive care.

Ms Stevenson told MailOnline from a hospital in Bangkok, where she is undergoing medical treatment: “I was partially asleep and the next thing I remember is that I just flew upwards and crashed into the ceiling and then fell down really hard into the aisle.

“It was over in seconds and I didn’t know what was going on. I was very confused and just froze. I couldn’t understand what had happened. It was terrifying and I was shocked.”

She added: “I lost perception of everything. But I managed to get back into my seat and put my seat belt back on and then it all became a bit of blur.

“It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life but somehow a bit of logic managed to kick in. Once I was back in my seat, I just wanted the plane to land but I can’t tell you how long it was before that happened because I was so dazed.”

Briton Josh Silverstone, 24, was discharged from a hospital with a cut in his eye and a chipped tooth. He said it could have been “way worse.”

“I arrived back in the airport and I couldn’t stop vomiting. I couldn’t walk, it was pretty bad,” said Mr Silverstone who was so scared that he bought in-flight internet access to message his mother. “I wasn’t trying to scare her, but I said ‘I love you.’”

Geoff Kitchen suffered a suspected heart attack on the flight
Geoff Kitchen suffered a suspected heart attack on the flight

Lizzie Atkins, a friend of Mr Kitchen, said he and his wife had been planning to go on a cruise in Indonesia before travelling to Australia, describing the pair as “adventurous travellers”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I just can’t believe that I’m having to do this. He was the most wonderful human being that you could ever know, really one of the top ones – he was stable and reliable and you always knew you were in safe hands with Geoff. He was just a remarkable man, really.

“He had a really dry sense of humour and he had a twinkle in his eye. Every time you saw him you just knew he was going to make a funny joke.”

She added that he was a “staunch supporter” of Thornbury Musical Theatre Group in Thornbury, north of Bristol, where the pair met around two decades ago.

Mr Kitchen had been its secretary, treasurer and chairman, she said, adding: “He would do anything for you, anything for the group – he was just amazing.”

Thornbury Musical Theatre Group described Mr Kitchen as “a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity”.

Crew injured in incident
Crew injured in incident

Singapore Airlines said the flight encountered “sudden extreme turbulence” at 37,000ft above Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Basin about 10 hours after departure, with the pilot declaring a medical emergency and diverting the plane to Bangkok.

The carrier’s chief executive, Goh Choon Phong, said he offered his “deepest condolences” to Mr Kitchen’s family.

“We are deeply saddened by this incident,” he said.

“We are very sorry for the traumatic experience that everyone on board SQ321 went through.

“We are fully co-operating with the relevant authorities on the investigations.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesman said officials are supporting the family of the passenger and are in contact with local authorities.

One passenger on board said the plane suffered a “dramatic drop”, meaning people not wearing a seatbelt were “launched immediately into the ceiling”.

Another passenger, Jerry, who was travelling to his son’s wedding, told the BBC the day was “the worst of my life”.

Speaking with a bandage covering part of his head, he said: “Things were going very smoothly at first. I’d just been to the loo, came back, sat down, bit of turbulence, and suddenly the plane plunged.

Passengers of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 greet family members (AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers of Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 greet family members (AFP via Getty Images)

“I don’t know how far, but it was a long way. (It was) so sudden, there was no warning at all, and I ended up hitting my head on the ceiling, my wife did.

“Some poor people walking around ended up doing somersaults. It was absolutely terrible, and then suddenly it stopped and it was calm again, and the staff did their best to tend to the injured people.

“There were a lot of them and some of the staff are injured themselves, so they did a sterling job.”

The 16-year-old Boeing 777 left Heathrow at 10.17pm on Monday and was diverted to Bangkok, landing at 3.45pm local time (9.45am BST) on Tuesday.

There were 211 passengers and 18 crew on board – including 47 passengers from the UK and four Irish nationals.

Flightradar24 said its tracking data showed the plane encountering turbulence at approximately 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.

A spokesman for the UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “Our deepest condolences go out to all those who have been affected.

“Accidents of this nature are extremely rare and aviation remains one of the safest forms of travel.”