Nelson couple talks about terror and injuries

A Nelson couple on board the horror Singapore Airlines flight earlier this week say at one point they didn’t know if they would survive.

There were 211 passengers and crew members aboard flight SQ321 from London to Singapore when sudden turbulence over Myanmar caused the plane to descend 1,800 meters in about three minutes on May 22.

A British man died of a suspected heart attack following the incident.

The Boeing 777-300ER aircraft was diverted to Bangkok, Thailand. Singapore Airlines said yesterday that 131 passengers and 12 crew members were well enough to fly from Thailand’s capital to Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Seventy-nine passengers and six crew members remained in Bangkok, where most are receiving hospital treatment.

Of that number, 20 are in intensive care, including one New Zealander and three Australians.

Nelson man Bruce Ealam said his ear was cut off and his neck was injured in the incident.

Bruce and Debbie Ealam spoke to 1News reporter Jessica Roden about the moment the turbulence occurred.

His wife Debbie was sitting opposite the Briton who died of a suspected heart attack.

He said they had been warned of some turbulence when leaving London, but that everything was calm before the incident.

“There was a violent shaking of the plane,” he told 1News. “It felt like a really strong earthquake.”

They recalled that the plane shook from side to side, followed by a “very, very loud noise” as “everything hit the roof.”

“It went black for a moment.”

Their immediate concern was the injured people around them, with one flight attendant who had been delivering food clinging to the leg of her seat during the turbulence.

Debbie said she didn’t know her husband had been injured until she turned around and “saw blood everywhere.”

Bruce was about to eat breakfast after taking a walk around the cabin when the plane started shaking.

“I suddenly realized I wasn’t wearing my seat belt because I had been up,” he said.

“I went to try to click on it and the next thing I knew I was on the ceiling. It looked like some kind of blank space and then I sat back down.”

The roof of an airplane damaged after sudden turbulence on a Singapore Airlines flight.

While the initial turbulence and sudden descent lasted about three minutes, both say it seemed much shorter.

“It all happened in one minute. It was very fast for me, and then there was a lot of screaming,” Debbie said.

Bruce agreed, saying he “thought it was less than a minute.”

“It was very fast because all I could see when I entered the roof, all I could see was white. It seemed like it was all over in a matter of seconds.”

After the screams of the terrified passengers subsided, Debbie said there was silence as “everyone was stunned and trying to pull themselves together.”

“Once I started looking around the plane, that’s when I saw the damage of what had happened and how hurt people really were.”

He initially did not realize the extent of his injuries.

“My face on one side must have scraped the side of the wall and when I got to the ceiling it split my ear open,” he said.

Bruce Ealam suffered cuts to his face and a bruise to his neck following the May 22 flight from London to Singapore.

“When it happened, at first I thought I needed a Band-Aid, but the doctor had other ideas about it.”

After the emergency landing in Bangkok, Bruce was taken to hospital, where he received 31 stitches.

Bruce Ealam had his ear split open after the horrific Singapore Airlines flight.

While some have criticized Singapore Airlines for their handling of the situation, the Ealams would like to thank them.

They had a support person from the airline with them almost the entire time they were in Bangkok and on their return to New Zealand.

“Last night we got a phone call from Singapore Airlines to check that we were home and if we needed anything and we were okay. So I can’t say enough about how they’ve handled the situation.”

The Ealams returned to New Zealand yesterday and said they are relieved to be home.

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