Cabin crew provided all possible assistance to dead passenger, say Etihad

Neurologist on board Etihad flight says she and crew did all they could.

Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Cabin crew were found to have provided all possible assistance to a man who died on board an Etihad Airways flight on Saturday, the airline has said.

The 73-year-old passenger died on flight EY23 to Germany. Travellers on board had waited for departure more than 13 hours on the Abu Dhabi tarmac after fog caused heavy delays.

Kim Bekelaar, 28, a Dutch resident neurologist at Maastricht University, said she and her husband helped treat the man at flight attendants’ request.

Finding the man not fully conscious, Ms Bekelaar said her husband, an orthopaedic surgeon, and another doctor laid him on the floor in the aisle.

“When we found him on the chair, he was still breathing, but when we put him on the floor he was just gasping for breath and breathing insufficiently,” she said. “He had no pulse, no circulation.”

The doctors asked to immediately start cardiopulmonary resuscitation and for an automated external defibrillator. The man had a scar usually seen in patients who have had open-heart or similar surgery, said Ms Bekelaar.

Crew members told them that as per Etihad policy, only they can perform CPR, she said. The crew was also trained to use the defibrillator, which they provided right away. “We also asked if they had an emergency kit with medication to measure the blood pressure and oxygen in the blood, but they were not able to find it at that moment,” she said.

It took about 10 minutes for the emergency kit, which contains medication such as adrenalin, to be provided, she said. Only a doctor would be able to administer it, she added.

“I think the crew was quite stressed as well. I think it’s quite natural because something like this doesn’t happen every day.”

Ms Bekelaar said she checked again 20 minutes before landing to see if the man had brainstem reflexes, but he did not.

“The crew said it’s their policy to keep on resuscitating, and I think that’s good,” she said.

The crew continued to resuscitate until the plane landed in Vienna for continued treatment on the ground.

Ms Bekelaar said she thought the crew did well considering the circumstances and that quicker access to the emergency kit would unlikely have saved the passenger.

“If you were in any other situation, not being in a hospital, I think they were very fast getting everything together,” she said.

“I think also for the personnel, they had already been on the plane quite a long time. To do something this difficult was quite traumatising for them.”

The incident also worried nearby passengers, who could hear what was happening. One woman had a panic attack, said Ms Bekelaar.

Etihad Airways said it complies with regulatory requirements and industry best practice for cabin crew to complete aviation health training.

During in-flight medical emergencies, the airline’s crew contacts a private company, MedAire, which advises more than 100 airlines worldwide and provides immediate contact with an emergency doctor, Etihad said.

The MedAire doctor’s instructions take precedence, though further assistance can be requested from medical volunteers on board.

A spokesman said the airline followed industry protocol by diverting for further treatment and added: “We once again offer our deepest condolences to the family of the passenger who passed away.”