Passengers on a Singapore Airlines flight hit by severe turbulence on Tuesday described a sudden, dramatic drop as “all hell broke loose” on board the Boeing airliner carrying 229 passengers and crew.

Flight SQ321 was cruising at 37,000 feet from London to Singapore when flight tracking data shows the plane rapidly plunged before climbing several hundred feet, then repeated the dip and ascent, for about 90 seconds.

At first, “the flight was perfectly normal,” said passenger Andrew Davies, who was traveling to New Zealand for business. He described the flight as “quite smooth … I don’t remember any turbulence at all.”

Many passengers were having breakfast at the time of the incident.

Then, about nine or 10 hours into the roughly 13-hour flight, he was watching a movie when he saw the seat belt sign light up – so he put his seat belt on. “Thank goodness I did because within moments of doing that, all hell broke loose,” he told CNN.

“The plane just felt like it dropped. It probably only lasted a few seconds, but I remember vividly seeing shoes and iPads and iPhones and cushions and blankets and cutlery and plates and cups flying through the air and crashing to the ceiling. The gentleman next to me had a cup of coffee, which went straight all over me and up to the ceiling,” Davies said.

Images from the plane afterward show the cabin in disarray, with papers, cups and water pitchers scattered on the floor, and ceiling panels and piping hanging loose.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, on May 21.

Davies was sitting toward the front of the plane and witnessed some of the injuries sustained by dozens of passengers – including Geoff Kitchen, a 73-year-old Briton who died on the flight.

“That gentleman was sitting right behind me,” he said. “Lots of people needed some help but we tended to this gentleman, and I helped carry him, get him out of the seat, and we laid him on the floor so that some medical professions could administer CPR.”

Kitchen was given CPR for about 20 minutes, said Davies. Meanwhile, he said, “there was so much screaming,” and people’s injuries were evident; when he turned around, he saw one passenger with “a big gash in her head and blood pouring down her face,” and another elderly passenger in “severe shock.”

Another passenger, 28-year-old student Dzafran Azmir, told Reuters that the aircraft had begun “tilting up” and shaking.

“Very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling,” he told Reuters. “Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it.”

Azmir added that the whole thing was “really, really quick – which is why I think nobody could really respond to it.” People didn’t have time to react, he said – there were passengers in the plane bathrooms and air crew still standing when the turbulence hit.

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The plane was diverted to Bangkok after the incident. Of the 211 passengers and 18 crew on board the original flight, 143 were transported via a relief flight to Singapore, where they landed early Wednesday morning, according to Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong in a video message released on Facebook.

The remaining 79 passengers and 6 crew members are still in Bangkok, including those receiving medical care, and their family members.

Those injured included citizens from Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Spain, the United States and Ireland, according to the hospital where they were treated.

Kittipong Kittikachorn, the general manager of the Bangkok airport, said on Tuesday that preliminary investigations suggest Kitchen had suffered from a heart condition, and that the autopsy process is ongoing.

Several passengers had broken arms, but the majority of injuries were cuts and bruises, he added.

Goh, the CEO, extended his condolences to Kitchen’s family and loved ones, saying the airline was “deeply saddened by this incident” and was “very sorry for the traumatic experience” that passengers endured.

The airline is cooperating with authorities on the investigation, he added.

Singapore’s Ministry of Transport is investigating the incident, saying Tuesday it was in touch with its Thai counterparts and would be sending investigators to Bangkok. The US National Transportation Safety Board is also sending personnel to Singapore to help the investigation, including a representative of the board and four technical advisors.

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