‘Her whole body would go stiff’: United flight not diverted for passenger’s medical episode

Updated: Dec. 10, 2018 at 9:11 PM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A two-hour flight from Houston to Cincinnati took a terrible turn Monday when a passenger began having a serious medical issue.

United 3466 wasn’t quite the flight anyone expected. As soon as the wheels went up, one woman went down.

“She was just passing out and they’d try to get that oxygen on her and bring her back, and then it was just the same cyclical passing out, seizure and then posturing,” said Amy Hammond. “And her whole body would go stiff.”

Hammond was sitting a few rows back and said a man trying to wake the woman up stepped in and played her because for the next two hours, there was no one else to help because United opted not to divert the flight.

“The entire flight he kept her talking, he asked her questions,” Hammond said. “Questions she could answer at the beginning of the flight she could not answer at the end. At the end she did not know the president, she did not know the day of the week, she did not know the month.”

Jon Austin, a spokesman for Republic Airline, provided the following statement:

“The safety of our customers is our first and highest priority. Regarding the medical event on board our flight 3466 this weekend, the decision to continue to the flight’s destination was made by our crew who did the right thing by working with medical personnel onboard, with our on-call medical service provider and with input from the passenger. Had it been the judgement of the medical professionals that another course of action was indicated, we would have followed that recommendation immediately.

"We’re grateful to all of our passengers who assisted in responding to their fellow passenger’s situation, including the numerous medical professionals on board who volunteered their services when asked.”

Aviation expert Jay Ratliff says diverting the flight was certainly an option in a situation like this and it’s not an uncommon practice.

“Literally, not a day goes by of the 26,000 flights that we have operating domestically in the United States -- every single day we have at least one diverted flight,” said Ratliff.

Hammond nor Ratliff cannot understand why this particular flight was not diverted.

“For an airline not to air on the side of caution in a sitaution like this, I find befuddling,” Ratliff said. “I mean, to me, it is absolutely incogitable from the standpoint of an airline not doing what’s in the best interest of the passenger and that’s obviously the case here.”

From a public relations standpoint, Ratliff compared this to the doctor who was dragged off a United flight in April 2017.

Hammond shared the story with FOX19 for a few reasons -- she was concerned about the way the situation was handled and she thought the stranger who spent the entire flight helping the woman deserved some credit for his actions. At this point, it’s unclear who that man is.

FOX19 does not have an update on the woman’s medical condition.

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