Severe turbulence has injured 27 people on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Bangkok, with passengers thrown into the aircraft’s ceiling, leaving some with fractured or broken bones.
The Boeing 777 hit a pocket of “clean air” turbulence – where there is no telltale cloud pattern or radar presence to warn pilots of the change in air pressure – as the flight prepared to land in Bangkok, shortly after midnight on Monday.
Denis Antonyuk, an official at Russia’s embassy in Bangkok said 24 Russian nationals and three Thai citizens were injured on flight SU270.
“Fifteen Russians and two Thais are still in hospital,” he told AFP, adding the rest had been discharged.
Aeroflot said none of the passengers were in a serious condition, and although several suffered fractured or broken bones, none had suffered spinal compression fractures, as had been reported earlier on Monday.
The turbulence hit about 40 minutes before the aircraft was due to land, and was “impossible to foresee”, with the crew unable to warn passengers to return to their seats and buckle their seatbelts, Aeroflot said. The flight was operated by an experienced crew, it added, including a pilot who had logged more than 23,000 flight hours.
The Russian embassy in Bangkok told Reuters: “The reason behind the injuries was that some of the passengers had not had their seatbelts fastened.”
Images taken by a passenger and posted on Instagram showed the aircraft’s cabin in disarray, with passengers lying in the aisles and items scattered on the floor in the galleys.
“We were hurled up into the roof of the plane, it was practically impossible to hold on,” a passenger, who gave her first name Yevgenia, told Rossiya 24 by phone. “It felt like the shaking wouldn’t stop, that we would just crash.”
During the Soviet era, Aeroflot had an appalling safety record, with 27 accidents killing 780 people in 1973 alone. It had 721 accidents in 44 years, though Aeroflot was the largest airline in the world at the time, carrying many times more passengers than its international rivals, reports The Guardian.
The airline’s safety record has improved since the collapse of the Soviet Union, although 88 passengers and crew were killed in 2008 when a plane crashed preparing to land in Perm, Russia.
The airline is ranked 37 out of 60 in the 2017 airline safety rankings compiled by the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre, above Alitalia and Air France.