Severe turbulence crippled dozens of people, leaving behind fractures, bruises and lasting memories of the horror on board.

Several of the seriously injured passengers on a Singapore Airlines flight that hit severe turbulence earlier this week will require spinal surgery, a Bangkok hospital said on 23 May.

Twenty people remain in intensive care, and a 73-year-old British man died after the Boeing 777 flying from London’s Heathrow Airport to Singapore on Tuesday hit severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea, scattering objects, passengers and crew members across the cabin.

A public relations officer at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, where most of the 104 injured in the incident were treated, told The Associated Press that other local hospitals had asked for their top specialists to help with treatment. He spoke on the condition of anonymity according to hospital rules.

Hospital director Adinun Kittiratanapaibul told a news conference that none of the 20 patients in the intensive care unit were in life-threatening condition. They include six Britons, six Malaysians, three Australians, two Singaporeans and one person each from Hong Kong, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Passengers described ‘terror’ as the plane shuddered, loose objects flew apart, and the injured lay paralysed on the floor of the aircraft.

It remains unclear what exactly caused the turbulence that caused the plane, with 211 passengers and 18 crew members on board, to plummet 1,800 metres in about three minutes before the flight was diverted to Thailand.

In one of the last accounts of the chaos on board, 43-year-old Malaysian Amelia Lim 43 described how she ended up face down on the floor.

‘I was so scared… I saw so many people on the floor; they were all covered in blood. There was blood on the floor and people,’ she told the Malaysian Post.

A woman sitting next to her ‘was lying motionless in the aisle and could not move, probably having suffered a hip or spinal injury,’ Amelia added.

Thai authorities said the dead Briton may have suffered a heart attack. Passengers said the aircraft crew tried to revive him by performing CPR for 20 minutes.

Among the 41 people who remained at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, 22 had spinal cord or spinal cord injuries, six had head injuries, and 13 had bone or internal organ damage, according to Adinun hospital director Adinun. The ages of the 19 men and 22 women range from 2 years to 83 years.

Adinun said 17 surgeries have already been performed – nine on the spine and eight for other injuries. Thirteen people injured in the incident remain in two different wards of the hospital.

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

A particular Singapore Airlines flight took 143 people with no injuries and minor injuries to Singapore on Wednesday morning.

Most people associate turbulence with severe storms, but the most dangerous type is clear-air turbulence. Differences in temperature and pressure create powerful currents of fast-moving air in cirrus clouds or even clear air near a thunderstorm, causing a sheaf of wind.

According to a 2021 report from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, turbulence caused 37.6 per cent of all accidents on major commercial airlines between 2009 and 2018. The Federal Aviation Administration, another US government agency, stated that turbulence caused 146 serious injuries between 2009 and 2021.

London-based travel and aviation expert Anita Mendiratta said severe turbulence is ‘highly unusual’.

Anita said passengers should heed seatbelt instructions, secure hand luggage when not in use, and reduce the number of items stowed in overhead compartments.

    ‘When there is turbulence, those doors can open and all the items on top, whether hand luggage, jackets, duty-free shop items, become mobile and pose a danger to all of us,’ Anita told the Associated Press.

An Australian passenger injured when a plane hit severe turbulence speaks to reporters at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok. Airline flight SQ321 was travelling from London’s Heathrow Airport to Singapore when it hit turbulence on Tuesday, seriously injuring dozens of passengers on the flight (Photo: Sakchai Lalit)

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