Video has emerged of the desperate battle by fellow passengers to save a man’s life who had fallen unconscious while traveling on a flight from Orlando to Los Angeles.
In a terrifying ordeal for nearby passengers the man was seen on the plane shaking and sweating and having a hard time breathing even before the flight took off.
But once United Flight 591 was in the air, his condition deteriorated rapidly and the captain made the decision to perform an emergency landing in order for the man to receive medical attention.
Fortunately, there were three CPR-trained professionals who were onboard the flight who risked catching the coronavirus themselves in order to perform life-saving emergency procedures.
Just over an hour into the flight, the passenger who was sitting in seat 28D stopped breathing.
The crew asked if there were any doctors onboard and a number of people with knowledge of CPR got up to help and rushed to the man’s aid in an attempt to revive him.
The footage, shot by fellow passengers shows three people taking turns to perform chest compressions on the man who has yet to be identified.
The unwell passenger was laid out in the aisle of the United Boeing 737-900 in full view of other concerned travelers while the three trained professionals administered CPR for almost an hour before the plane finally touched down in New Orleans in order for the man to be taken to hospital, where he later died.
Other passengers sitting in various parts of the crowded cabin took photos as the drama unfolded before them.
Medics from the New Orleans fire department were allowed on board once the plane had landed and further attempted to save him while his wife revealed within earshot of other travelers that her husband had been showing symptoms of COVID-19 for the past week, having lost his sense of taste and smell.
Some have detailed how during CPR, the man’s bones could be heard to crack as chest compressions were carried out before he started turning blue.
Tony Aldapa was one of the selfless passengers on board who helped perform chest compressions on the man.
‘I got up after seeing two other passengers already performing CPR. I let them know “Hey I know CPR” and asked “Do you need some extra help?” I can tap in and help with chest compressions. That’s how it all started.
‘By the point that I got there to the point where the fire department got on board, it was at least 45 minutes,’ Aldapa explained. ‘I continued to switch out with them until he was removed from the airplane.’
‘There was no mouth-to-mouth at all. We were doing chest compressions and they had him on the oxygen mask from the plane, then once we had a medical bag that is kept on board we used an ambu-bag which is a bag that you squeeze to give breaths, that’s what we used for breathing,’ he detailed.
Aldapa told DailyMail.com that despite the risk of contracting COVID, he continued to assist the man.
‘Regardless of if he had COVID or not he needed CPR. I would hope that anyone would do that same for me or my family if put in the same situation,’ he said.
The chest compressions continued for almost an hour and the three CPR-trained professionals were able to stay in the aisle while the plane touched down.
‘We all braced each other during the landing and the pilots did an amazing job making it as smooth as possible, honestly it was smoother than many of the flights I’ve been on, and the flight attendants did great letting us know how close we were to landing and when exactly to brace.’
Aldapa says that he managed to keep his cool through the mid-air drama thanks to his military background.
‘I received some amazing training in the Navy and through my previous job at Strategic Operations, Inc in San Diego that I feel prepared me mentally to handle any kind of emergency. Obviously it was stressful, but at the end of the day I’m glad I had that training to pull from.’
On Saturday night, on Twitter, Aldapa went into further details as to why he decided to get involved and what happened after the man had been removed from the aircraft.
‘By now most of you know I was on the United flight that has been in the news. I made the decision to attempt to save the passengers life and along with 2 others performed CPR for close to an hour until we landed. And continued to help the firefighters when they came onboard.
‘I knew the risks involved in performing CPR on someone that potentially has COVID but I made the choice to do so anyways. I spoke with the passengers wife about his medical history and she never mentioned he was positive, she said he was scheduled to have a test done in LA.
‘I spent the remainder of the flight covered in my own sweat and in that man’s urine. I have since become symptomatic myself and am awaiting the results of my second test. I have not been contacted by the airline or by CDC as of this time.
‘Looking back I would not change my actions, but I may have stepped up earlier. Knowing I had the knowledge, training and experience to help out, I could not have sat idly by and watched someone die.’
Aldapa also told DailyMail.com that despite the photographs snapped by other travelers, there was no sense of chaos in the cabin at any point.
‘There was no chaos on board. The photos look like it but that’s because there were a lot of people in one spot in a small space. Just like when boarding a flight, it’s organized but a photo will make it look like a mob. The flight crew had everything under control to the best of their ability and any passenger that was not actively helping was sitting calmly in their seats. I’ve been in chaotic situations before and that was absolutely not the case. It definitely could have been, but the flight crew did an amazing job.’
While talking to EMTs in New Orleans, the man’s wife admitted that her husband had tested positive for coronavirus meaning he likely lied when checking in for the flight.
During check-in, all United passengers have to self-report on whether they have experienced any coronavirus symptoms.
After the passenger was offloaded in New Orleans, his seat was wiped down, and the plane, a Boeing 737-900 with capacity for 179 people, continued its journey to Los Angeles.
In a statement to DailyMail.com United Airlines has confirmed that it was contacted by the CDC, and was informed that the man did have coronavirus.
‘Our flight diverted to New Orleans due to a medical emergency and paramedics transported the passenger to a local hospital where the individual was pronounced deceased. We have been in touch with his family and have extended our sincerest condolences to them for their loss.
‘At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans. Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.
‘The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place such as mask mandates and requiring customers to complete a ‘Ready-to-Fly’ checklist before the flight acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days and do not have COVID-related symptoms,’ the statement read.