Spine surgeries needed for 22 people aboard turbulent Singapore Airlines flight, hospital says

Several of the most seriously injured people who were on the Singapore Airlines flight that hit severe turbulence earlier this week will need spinal surgery, a Bangkok hospital said Thursday.

Twenty people remain in intensive care and a 73-year-old Briton died after the Boeing 777, which was flying from London Heathrow Airport to Singapore on Tuesday, suffered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea, throwing objects, passengers and members of the crew. crew. the cabin.

A public relations official at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, where most of the 104 people injured in the incident were treated, told The Associated Press that other local hospitals have been asked to lend their best specialists to help with treatments. He spoke on condition of anonymity per hospital policy.

Hospital director Adinun Kittiratanapaibool said at a news conference Thursday that none of the 20 patients in the ICU were in a life-threatening condition. They include six Britons, six Malaysians, three Australians, two Singaporeans and one person from Hong Kong, New Zealand and the Philippines.

“Pure terror”

Passengers described the “sheer terror” of the plane shaking, loose objects flying and injured people lying paralyzed on the floor of the plane.

It is still unclear what exactly caused the turbulence that caused the plane, carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members, to descend approximately 1,800 meters in about three minutes, after which the flight was diverted to Thailand.

In one of the latest accounts of the chaos on board, Malaysian Amelia Lim, 43, described finding herself face down on the floor.

“I was so scared… I could see so many people on the ground, everyone was bleeding. There was blood both on the ground and on the people,” he told online newspaper Malay Mail.

SEE | Some passengers were carried on stretchers:

Singapore Airlines passengers describe chaotic scene and frantic efforts to help after turbulence

Passengers who were on board the flight from London to Singapore that experienced severe turbulence describe what they saw on the flight, including staff working to help people even after they were injured.

The woman sitting next to him was “motionless in the hallway and unable to move, likely suffering from a hip or spinal injury,” he said.

Thai authorities said the Briton who died had possibly suffered a heart attack. Passengers described how the flight crew tried to revive him by performing CPR for about 20 minutes.

22 people were left with spinal injuries, the hospital says

Among the 41 people who remained at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital on Thursday morning, 22 had damage to the spine or spinal cord, six had injuries to the skull or brain and 13 had damage to bones or internal organs, the hospital said. hospital director, Kittiratanapaibool. The 19 men and 22 women ranged in age from 2 to 83 years.

Seventeen surgeries have already been performed: nine spinal surgeries and eight for other injuries, he said. Thirteen others injured in the incident remain in two other branches of the hospital.

SEE | What happens in extreme turbulence:

Singapore Airlines passenger describes ‘horrible’ turbulence

When asked about the prognosis for the most severe cases, he said it was too early to say whether any could suffer permanent paralysis and that doctors would have to watch whether muscle function recovered after surgery.

On Wednesday morning, a special Singapore Airlines flight carried 143 uninjured or slightly injured people to Singapore.

Most people associate turbulence with strong storms, but the most dangerous type is so-called clear air turbulence. Wind shear can occur in faint cirrus clouds or even in clear air near thunderstorms, as differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air.

According to a 2021 report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence accounted for 37.6 percent of all accidents on larger commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration, another agency of the U.S. government, said there were 146 serious injuries from turbulence. from 2009 to 2021.

London-based tourism and aviation expert Anita Mendiratta said severe turbulence is “extremely unusual.”

A man with black hair, black glasses and a black suit stands at a podium during a presentation for journalists.
Samitivej Hospital director Adinun Kittiratanapaibool speaks to reporters during a press conference on the turbulent Singapore Airlines flight in Bangkok on Thursday. (Sakchai Lalit/Associated Press)

It said passengers should listen to instructions to keep their seat belts on, ensure carry-on luggage is stowed securely when not in use and reduce items stored in overhead bins.

“When there’s turbulence, those doors can open and all the items that are on top – whether it’s our carry-on luggage, our jackets, our duty-free items – become mobile and become a risk to all of us,” he told the AP.

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