Toby Pearl and Liam James-Morris standing arm in arm in Singapore surrounded by an indoor garden and a dramatic water feature behind them.Liam James-Morris

A backpacker from Wales rushed to perform CPR for 30 minutes on a passenger who had a fatal heart attack aboard the Singapore Airlines flight hit by severe turbulence.

Toby Pearl, 21, from Abergavenny, was on the flight from London Heathrow to Singapore with his friend Liam James-Morris which made an emergency landing on Tuesday.

Despite being injured himself, healthcare worker Mr Pearl rushed to help Geoff Kitchen, 73.

“Without really thinking, I jumped out the seat and over the aisle,” he said.

Twenty-two people from the flight suffered spinal injuries, while six people were in critical condition with life-threatening injuries, the director at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital in Bangkok said on Thursday.

Mr Pearl was on the flight to start backpacking in Cairns in northern Australia, where he plans to spend 12 months, while friend Mr James-Morris plans to spend three months in his break from a sport nutrition degree.

They boarded the plane at 22:00 BST in Heathrow on Monday dreaming of Australia, but 10 hours in to the flight the plane was hit with severe turbulence over the Indian Ocean.

Mr James-Morris said: “When the seat belt sign came on, [the turbulence] was absolutely instant, nobody had any time to react, that’s why I think there’s so many injuries.”

Mr Pearl said: “Myself and many other passengers were thrown into the air with drinks trolleys, and different bits and bobs.

“My seat came up in the air with me as well.”

He said he landed on another passenger several rows behind him.

Mr James-Morris had his seatbelt on which meant he was unhurt.

Food and drink items, including kettles, were pictured on the plane's floor after it met turbulence


Both said they believed the plane was “going down” and “thought it was the end”.

“You could hear people making last minute phone calls and voice messages to family members,” Mr Pearl said.

Mr James-Morris added: “I wanted to ring my parents and say like something’s happening. If anything happens, I just want you to know that I love you.”

Within 30 seconds of the turbulence they said they heard cries for first aid-trained help and an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Mr Pearl joined in efforts to help Mr Kitchen, who was suffering a suspected heart attack alongside a doctor and a nurse, who he said made some “really tough calls”.

The plane seats with emergency oxygen masks down and people's belongings strewn about


“I worked as a healthcare worker at Llanarth Court Hospital as my main job before I came travelling, so I have some experience in healthcare, but this was stuff you don’t normally see.”

He said the doctor onboard was helping while also assessing other injured people, while Mr Pearl continued to perform CPR.

Mr Pearl said after 30 minutes the turbulence was still bad and they could not get a shocking rhythm on the AED, and Mr Kitchen died before the plane could land.

“The doctor called the death, which must have been a really hard call as the man’s wife was sat only a row behind, so she was witnessing the whole thing,” he said.

Mr James-Morris said he “couldn’t be more proud” of his friend.

“I take my hat off to him completely, he literally put himself in danger – nobody knew what was going on,” he said. “He just went straight into it headfirst.”

An overhead compartment cracked and visibly damaged

Toby Pearl and Liam James-Morris

Mr Pearl said: “My father said he was reading the news article as I rang him, and obviously seeing it said one passenger dead, he was assuming the worst.”

Mr James-Morris said when they were taken off the plane, they began talking to the other passengers to “get a community together”, which helped to process what they had gone through.

He added that “Singapore airlines have been absolutely fantastic with us”.

They were offered a range of different options to continue to Cairns and will be flying out on Sunday.

Mr James-Morris said he has been watching videos of experts explaining how rare an occurrence this was to help with the nerves about flying again.

“I wouldn’t say I’m confident flying – but it’s something we’re gonna have to do to, even if we wanted to go home, so I’ll jump on the plane to Australia,” he said.

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