Briton who died after turbulence a 'remarkable man'

A British man who died on board a Singapore Airlines flight hit by severe turbulence has been described as a "remarkable man" by a friend.

Geoff Kitchen suffered a suspected heart attack after the plane encountered a sudden drop in altitude - leading to what passengers have called scenes of "absolute terror".

Seven other passengers were critically injured, while dozens more suffered minor injuries.

The 73-year-old was on a plane flying from London to Singapore, with some 211 passengers and 18 crew on board - including 47 people from the UK.

Mr Kitchen was travelling with his wife on the first leg of a long-planned journey including a cruise in Indonesia and trip to Australia, a friend of the couple told the BBC.

He was described as being "always a gentleman with the utmost honesty and integrity" by members of the Thornbury Musical Theatre Group in South Gloucestershire, which he helped to run.

'He had a twinkle in his eye'

Lizzie Atkins, a friend of Mr Kitchen's and a member of the theatre group, described him as a "remarkable man".

Mr Kitchen was the group's secretary, treasurer and chairman, she said, adding: "He would do anything for you, anything for the group - he was just amazing.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Atkins said: "I just can't believe that I'm having to do this, he was the most wonderful human being that you could ever know, really one of the top ones - he was stable and reliable and you always knew you were in safe hands with Geoff."

Mr Kitchen and his wife were both "adventurous travellers" and their trip "had been planned for a very long time," Ms Atkins said.

"They loved to travel and this was something they were particularly looking forward to."

She added: "He had a really dry sense of humour and he had a twinkle in his eye, every time you saw him you just knew he was going to make a funny joke."

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said it was supporting the family of the passenger, and was in contact with local authorities.

About 10 hours into its flight, the plane encountered "sudden extreme turbulence" over Myanmar's Irrawaddy Basin, according to an airline official.

Passengers have described chaotic scenes on board, with people and objects suddenly launched across the cabin.

One passenger said they saw people hit their heads on overhead lockers, leaving dents in them. Another said the aircraft suddenly started "tilting up" and "shaking".

Briton Andrew Davis said he was left "covered in coffee" after the ordeal. He heard "awful screaming" and saw "things flying through the air".

Another British man, Jerry, was on the plane as part of a journey to Australia for his son's wedding. He said the jet "plunged" mid-flight with no warning.

He said both he and his wife hit their heads on the plane's ceiling, and that people who were walking around "ended up doing somersaults".

Allison Barker's son Josh was travelling on the flight. He managed to send her a text saying: "I don't want to scare you, but I'm on a crazy flight. The plane is making an emergency landing... I love you all."

After that message, Allison said she waited for a "petrifying" two hours before hearing from him again.

"One minute, he was just sitting down wearing a seatbelt, the next minute, he must have blacked out because he found himself on the floor with other people," she told the BBC.

She said Josh sustained minor injuries, but she is worried about the experience's lasting impact on him.

The Boeing 777-300ER was diverted to Bangkok following the incident, and made an emergency landing at 15:45 local time (08:45 GMT).

Singapore Airlines said it was working with Thai authorities to provide medical assistance to passengers, and was sending a team to Bangkok to provide any additional help needed.

The head of Singapore Airlines, Goh Choon Phong, has apologised, saying the airline was "very sorry for the traumatic experience" for those onboard flight SQ321.

He said some 79 passengers and six crew members are receiving medical treatment in Bangkok and a relief flight carrying the rest arrived in Singapore early on Wednesday.

He expressed his condolences to the family of the victim, adding that they would "render all possible assistance" to affected passengers and crew members.

The airline, he said, was "fully cooperating with relevant authorities on the investigations".

Interior of the plane after the emergency landing
The plane made an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport [Reuters]