A man who died on a United Airlines flight last week had COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a coroner’s report released Tuesday confirmed.
The 69-year-old passenger died shortly after collapsing on the United Los Angeles-bound flight from Orlando, Florida, on Dec. 14. The flight was declared an emergency and was diverted to New Orleans.
He was rushed to Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner by paramedics where he was pronounced dead, the airline said.
Jefferson Parish coroner Gerry Cvitanovic in his report listed acute respiratory failure and COVID-19 as causes of death.
Passengers of major airlines in the United States are required to fill out a preflight checklist stating that they haven’t experienced symptoms associated with COVID-19, or tested positive for the virus within the past two weeks. The 69-year-old said no to both before his flight, ABC News reported.
The man’s wife was reportedly heard telling medical workers on the plane that he had been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including labored breathing and loss of taste and smell.
“They had him on the ground in the center of the aisle,” fellow passenger Cameron Roberts said. “They were still giving him CPR while we were touching down.”
Roberts added that other passengers believed he was suffering from cardiac arrest, and so gave the 69-year-old chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth.
“It’s sad to see that, you know, they lost a family member,” Roberts said, reported ABC News. “At the same time, it was irresponsible on their part to have come on the plane.”
A man told CBS Los Angeles this week that he performed CPR on the man and is now experiencing symptoms of the CCP virus.
“It was all kinda just second nature to see someone in a bad place you try to bring them out of the bad place,” fellow passenger Tony Aldapa said. “There were three of us that were essentially tag-teaming doing chest compressions, probably about 45 minutes.”
He added that he feels “like I got hit by a train,” but told CNN that he has tested negative for the virus twice.
United initially released statements saying that the airline believed the passenger had a heart attack. Passengers aboard the flight were told they could either continue to their original destination, or take a flight later that day. However, all passengers chose to continue to Los Angeles, the New York Times reported.
After learning that the man had CCP virus symptoms, the airline said that it was providing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the relevant information to assist in contacting passengers of the flight that “may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.”
The CDC said on Sunday that it “is in the process of collecting information and proceeding according to our standard operating procedures to determine if further public health action is appropriate. To protect the privacy of the individual, we aren’t providing this information to the public.”
United said in a Dec. 16 release that, with the support of the CDC, it is rolling out a voluntary contact tracing program for passengers as part of efforts to curb the transmission of the virus.
“Contact tracing is a fundamental component of the nation’s public health response strategy for controlling the spread of communicable diseases of public health concern,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “Collection of contact information from air travelers will greatly improve the timeliness and completeness of information for COVID-19 public health follow-up and contact tracing.”
In a separate incident, a woman in her 30s with underlying health conditions died from COVID-19 while on a Spirit Airlines flight from Arizona to Texas in July. The flight was diverted to Albuquerque in New Mexico, where she was pronounced dead.
Fellow passengers were reportedly never informed about the cause of her death, and the CDC has claimed it has no record of being contacted by the airline.