One moment, Toby Pearl was ensconced in his economy-class seat in row 43 aboard Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 from London to Singapore. The next, personal belongings, food and even people were being hurled around the cabin, crashing into overhead lockers and causing oxygen masks to deploy from the ceiling.

The massive Boeing Co. 777 aircraft operated by Singapore Airlines had hit a pocket of turbulence so violent that it left one person dead and scores of others seriously injured.

Pearl said he was among passengers who rushed to provide first aid immediately after the impact, but they were unable to help a 73 year-old Briton, who died of a suspected heart attack.