TRAGEDY AT 40,000 FEET: Flight attendant suffers mid-air heart attack, dies after emergency landing

TRAGEDY AT 40,000 FEET: Flight attendant suffers mid-air heart attack, dies after emergency landing

By Piyush Arora

ERBIL, IRAQ: A Gulf Air flight attendant tragically died after suffering a heart attack during a journey from Bahrain to Paris. Yasser Saleh Al Yazidi became ill on Gulf Air flight GF-19, which was heading to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport after taking off from Bahrain International at 1.40 am on Tuesday, November 22.

Yasser’s deteriorating condition forced the pilots of the Airbus A321 to make an emergency landing in Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where the flight was grounded for around four hours. Upon their arrival, the cabin crew met the medical team, who immediately rushed Yasser to a nearby hospital. However, he didn’t survive.

A Gulf Air statement released in the wake of Yasser’s death read: “The national carrier expresses its deepest condolences to the crew member’s family and loved ones, and confirms that the flight resumed to Paris as scheduled.” The director of Erbil airport Ahmed Hoshyar also noted that Yasser fell severely ill when the airplane was flying over Iraq at a height of 34,000 feet.

“Gulf Air reassures that the safety of its passengers and crew comes at the top of its priorities, and thanks the affected flight’s passengers for their patience and understanding,” the Gulf Air statement continued.

Cabin crew is typically trained to administer basic first aid and all planes are equipped with rudimentary first aid kits and medical supplies. However, this incident came weeks after a woman died of an apparent heart attack while flying from Houston to London. She was aboard Flight 880, which took off from Houston at 4.30 pm Tuesday and landed around 7.40 am local time at London’s Heathrow Airport, according to flight-tracking data.

“We were called at 6.33 am today to reports of a passenger having suffered a cardiac arrest on board a flight due to arrive at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2,” a London Ambulance Service spokesperson said. “We sent two cycle paramedics and an incident response officer. Sadly, a woman was pronounced dead at the scene.”

These incidents were reported amid a sudden spike in the number of passengers who go into cardiac arrest while flying. According to a report by AHA journals, the number of lives lost due to cardiac arrest in commercial aircraft each year has been estimated to be as high as 1000 per year in International Airlines Transport Association (IATA) carriers. The report estimated the number of passenger deaths aboard US carriers to be between 114 and 316 a year. The incidence of sudden cardiac death among passengers on airplanes has probably been underreported due to the lack of mandated reporting mechanisms.

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