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4xRuv
Topic Author
Posts: 381
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:05 pm

Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:06 am

Hi All,
Last week I've been on an international flight, and a passenger passed away.
I don't want to expose the flight details to protect the privacy of the deceased and his family.
I don't know how he died, as we were only told about it before landing (they couldn't give the second meal service as they used the galley as temporary hospital).
I was wondering, how often does it happen? Is there any statistics about the causes for on board death?
Thanks,
 
swiftski
Posts: 1837
Joined: Tue Dec 19, 2006 6:19 am

Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:34 am

Lots of good discussion about this topic here RE: BA:Dead Pax Put Into First Class (by Ryanair!!! Dec 6 2006 in Civil Aviation)

Different situation, but worth reading.

Also Inflight Death On LH 450 FRA-LAX, 7/28/07 (by Zrs70 Jul 29 2007 in Civil Aviation)
 
LHR777
Posts: 645
Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2005 6:14 pm

Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:48 am

It's also more common than we think. There were three deaths on-board LHR-bound aircraft just in the last 5 days. May they all, sadly, R.I.P.
 
oldeuropean
Posts: 1686
Joined: Thu May 19, 2005 5:19 pm

Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:50 am

Seems that it happens more than expected.

I would guess that the special conditions of a flight could increases the risks.

Anxiety, perhaps fear of flying, the lower air pressure, dehydration, danger of thrombosis, etcetera.

Axel

[Edited 2007-09-08 21:51:40]
Wer nichts weiss muss alles glauben
 
swiftski
Posts: 1837
Joined: Tue Dec 19, 2006 6:19 am

Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:52 am

Quoting 4xRuv (Thread starter):
I don't know how he died, as we were only told about it before landing

OOI, how was it announced? I can imagine it would be difficult to explain.
 
bok269
Posts: 1568
Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 10:19 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 6:53 am

My thoughts and prayers are with the famillies.  pray 
"Reality is wrong, dreams are for real." -Tupac
 
contrails
Posts: 1314
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2000 11:53 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:11 am

With all the stress inherent in flying these days I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often. I've seen people board with a full head of steam for one perceived transgression or another they believe the airline committed against them. Combine that with a cramped seat, some idiotic seat-mates, and a few crying babies and it could push somebody over the edge.

I was on flight from HNL to DFW early one morning when a pax had what was thought to be a heart attack. The FA's asked if there was a doctor or nurse onboard. Fortunately it wasn't serious and we continued to DFW.

I'm wondering, if the death happens in international airspace who conducts the inquest or investigation, if there is one? I'd guess the jurisdiction where the plane landed.
Flying Colors Forever!
 
TG992
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2001 12:03 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:19 am

Air NZ, who operate roughly 70 international flights a day, usually have 3-4 deaths per year. That should give you some idea of the frequency.
-
 
JoKeR
Posts: 1851
Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2004 12:34 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:20 am

Quoting Contrails (Reply 6):
if the death happens in international airspace who conducts the inquest or investigation

Usually the country of destination, where the body is received, examined and repatriated back to the country of the deceased, after all the formalities are completed.
 
DavidT
Posts: 462
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 1:37 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:20 am

I remember reading somewhere that, given the sheer numbers of people who fly every year by statistics alone a fair few of them must die at some point! While the conditions of flight may increase the risk of death slightly, airlines already cover themselves by warning those affected with relevant medical conditions to either not fly or fly but they need a doctors note. So I don't think things such as stress or altitude etc. have an effect as pronounced as it first seems...
 
nkops
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RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:57 am

If I'm correct, passengers are not pronounced dead on an aircraft though, because then the plane is grounded (or that could be just a myth?)
Turn left heading 080 contact departure
 
aviateur
Posts: 562
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2004 9:25 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:06 am

Quoting Oldeuropean (Reply 3):
Seems that it happens more than expected.

Not really. I'd suggest just the opposite: globally, about five million people fly every day.

Thus, I'm not sure why it's news every time somebody passes away on board.

This issue was discussed in an article, here....
http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2007/08/10/askthepilot240/
Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist and author
 
baw716
Posts: 1463
Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2003 7:02 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:45 am

We had one death that I can recall on the MXP-SFO service; I would not say that it is a common occurrence. However, each airline has procedures in place to manage such events and from personal experience I can tell you that everything possible is done to a) protect the rest of the passengers and b) protect the dignity of the dead passenger and care for their family members.

Death is a part of life. Anyway you look at it, it happens far less on an aircraft than anywhere else, especially, say driving on the freeway.

baw716
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998
 
midex461
Posts: 229
Joined: Tue Feb 15, 2000 11:08 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:09 am

Quoting Nkops (Reply 10):
If I'm correct, passengers are not pronounced dead on an aircraft though, because then the plane is grounded (or that could be just a myth?)

AFAIK, it's not a myth. As a professional courtesy, doctors will wait to pronounce until the "pax" is off the aircraft. Otherwise, the plane is declared a biohazard has to be quarantined (or at least that's what my sup at YV told me back in 2004).
Opinions and views expressed are MINE and do NOT represent the views of US Airways
 
rfields5421
Posts: 6264
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:45 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:22 am

Quoting Nkops (Reply 10):
If I'm correct, passengers are not pronounced dead on an aircraft though, because then the plane is grounded (or that could be just a myth?)

Depending upon the destination country, a licensed MD on an aircraft often cannot pronounce someone as dead unless that doctor has privledges is the destination jurisdiction. For example, a doctor licensed in Texas cannot pronounce someone in New York as dead.

In many jurisdictions, only a corner, who is not necessarily an MD, can pronounce someone as dead if the death occurs unexpectedly in unusual circumstances - which dying on an inflight airplane would be classified.
Not all who wander are lost.
 
EMBQA
Posts: 7858
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 3:52 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:29 am

Quoting 4xRuv (Thread starter):
I was wondering, how often does it happen?

Often enough that Boeing and Airbus offer Morgue 'coolers' on their long distance aircraft.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
SJCRRPAX
Posts: 961
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 2:29 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:47 am

Go ahead someone flame me for my stupid math, because I know its stupid but it's just something to think about....

Life expectancy 78 years * 365 days * 24 hours = 683,200 hours in a life

British Airways flys 90,000 pax/daily * 4 hrs (average flight time --- my guess) = 360,000 pax hours per day.

So I would guess there would be 3 or 4 deaths / week on BA Flights...

OK, these are wild inaccurate approximations, I know most flyers are not ready to die, they are young, there is more stress in flight, ... blah, blah, blah..., but the point is anytime you take a large sample of people over a long enough period of time, some of the people will die. It's part of life. If you don't believe it, just look at the obituary section of any city newspaper, people die all the time.
 
N747PE
Posts: 82
Joined: Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:47 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 2:11 pm

I was the gate agent that met PE 17, the EWR LAX redeye 2 AM departure. We got a call from Systems Ops in EWR that a pax had expired enroute. When 17 arrived we had the couriner waiting and everything when pretty smooth. The couriner wanted the family to identify the body before they removed it. We were using gate 26 that morning in the old terminal two. Gate 26 has a split level so everyone deplaned on the upper level and the family and couriner waited on the lower level. The deceased was in the back of E zone and the flight crew was able to cover up with a blanket and the surrounding passengers were moved forward. Calling the family to the gate was tough but the pax had terminal cancer and was making one last trip to see the family. When the family arrived the father asked if his dad had some problem on the flight. I told him I could not confirm his status but the couriner wanted a member of the family to identify the body. I was surprised at how well the family took the news. After the planed emptied the couriner came on with the dad and did the ID and then the dad requested the family be given a chance to say their goodbyes. 17 was early and we had an on time departure for PE 8
 
JETnyc
Posts: 91
Joined: Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:13 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 4:03 pm

The Pilots some time expire, there was a Capt. that passed away not too long ago the FO had to take over....
 
tommybp251b
Posts: 332
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:21 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 6:49 pm

Quoting Nkops (Reply 10):
If I'm correct, passengers are not pronounced dead on an aircraft though, because then the plane is grounded (or that could be just a myth?)



Quoting Midex461 (Reply 13):
AFAIK, it's not a myth. As a professional courtesy, doctors will wait to pronounce until the "pax" is off the aircraft. Otherwise, the plane is declared a biohazard has to be quarantined (or at least that's what my sup at YV told me back in 2004).

I think it is true. I drive ambulances next to my medical studies. If someone would be pronounced dead in our ambulance, we would have to desinfect it for 4 hours.
So "nobody" dies inside the ambulance, they mostly die when we got out with the patient lying on the stretcher.

Thats how it is going.

Regards Tom
Tom from Cologne
 
dc10tim
Posts: 1380
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2005 12:21 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 7:10 pm

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 14):
In many jurisdictions, only a corner, who is not necessarily an MD, can pronounce someone as dead if the death occurs unexpectedly in unusual circumstances - which dying on an inflight airplane would be classified.



Quoting EMBQA (Reply 15):
Often enough that Boeing and Airbus offer Morgue 'coolers' on their long distance aircraft.

One thing I have wondered is who actually pronounces a pax dead in order to put them in a cooler? Isn't it a bit risky if there is not a doctor onboard?

Tim.
Obviously missing something....
 
loalq
Posts: 209
Joined: Fri Jan 12, 2007 6:24 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:09 pm

I do not have enough knowledge on the subject but I think it is not that easy to pronounce death in circumstances like these. So why isn't the plane diverted to the nearest airport when something like this happens (or is about to happen)? They can get proper help on the ground...

Rgds, Loalq
"...this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped."
 
AlexPorter
Posts: 1655
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:10 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:12 pm

Quoting DC10Tim (Reply 20):
One thing I have wondered is who actually pronounces a pax dead in order to put them in a cooler? Isn't it a bit risky if there is not a doctor onboard?

Two things:
1. Vital signs are obvious enough, and F/As know first aid, I believe. It's pretty easy to confirm somebody as dead when they have no pulse, aren't breathing, and CPR attempts fail.
2. A passenger doesn't need to officially be pronounced dead to be put in the "corpse cupboard." Remember, due to ensuing delays if somebody is actually pronounced on the plane, practice is to not pronounce until the airport. Basically, everybody knows the passenger died, but for convenience purposes they just don't make it "official" yet.
Last Flight: SCX701 MSP-PHX B738 8Jan2008
 
ltbewr
Posts: 15105
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2004 1:24 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 9:44 pm

You also have the problems of making sure the person died in flight of natural causes and not by murder on or set up prior to the flight. That means some police or government 'official' authority must verify or declare the death upon arrival the the airport flying to or diverted to as those authorities are not on the flight. If there is any reason to believe the death was not natural, then police must be able to do their investigations including collecting evidence around the person on the aircraft. A preliminary investigation upon arrival by the local authorities confirming that the person wasn't murdered on the flight will almost always mean the deceased can be removed promptly from the a/c and it continue in service. I would assume that the seat and the area around it where a person died may not be used until the cushions can be replaced and the cushion and the area around it cleaned.
As to how often, common sense would suggest it is more likely on longer flights rather than shorter flights, as with shorter flights, they might arrive at their intended airport soon enough to give medical attention. So I would suggest it there may be 1-2 deaths in flight per day world wide.
 
MCOflyer
Posts: 7088
Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 5:51 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:15 pm

Quoting JETnyc (Reply 18):
The Pilots some time expire, there was a Capt. that passed away not too long ago the FO had to take over....

I believe that was CO out of IAH.

I have heard on here that SQ and LH has coolers for bodies.

Hunter
Never be afraid to stand up for who you are.
 
rfields5421
Posts: 6264
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:45 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:22 pm

Quoting DC10Tim (Reply 20):
One thing I have wondered is who actually pronounces a pax dead in order to put them in a cooler? Isn't it a bit risky if there is not a doctor onboard?

There are many diversions for immediate medical care on enroute aircraft. If there is any possibility of life, the crew is going to divert. They know their expertise is in flying, not emergency medicine.

That's why we hear more about these incidents on long distance flights over water.

A flight crew is not going to take a chance on a person's death being blamed on the crew not diverting the flight. Not for the human aspect of not wanting to waste a life, nor the legal liability standpoint.

As far as who accutally pronounces a pax dead - this varies according to jurisdiction. Many places, if the death occurs ourside a hospital or the presence of a doctor treating the patient - only a coronor can make the pronouncement. Or only someone with legal authority to sign a death certificate.

In the US we see highways blocked for lengthy times after auto accidents until the medical examiner can arrive and pronounce the death - even though the results of the accident make it impossible for the person to be alive.

But as I said, it varies tremendously depending upon where.
Not all who wander are lost.
 
JGPH1A
Posts: 15079
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2003 4:36 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:30 pm

Given some of the passengers I've had the joy of travelling with, clearly not often enough !  Smile
Young and beautiful and thin and gorgeous AND BANNED ! Cya at airspaceonline.com, losers
 
hiflyer
Posts: 1274
Joined: Wed Nov 24, 2004 1:38 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:31 pm

Believe the a345 has the coolers for the 18 hr flights.

It is sorta an unwritten rule...they are officially pronounced after removal from the aircraft....most times after transport to the hospital.
 
David L
Posts: 8551
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:26 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 10:35 pm

Quoting Aviateur (Reply 11):
Not really. I'd suggest just the opposite: globally, about five million people fly every day.

Thus, I'm not sure why it's news every time somebody passes away on board.

I see what you're saying but, common though it might be, I guess it's not something the vast majority of people ever encounter so it just seems like a big deal when they do.

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 16):
but the point is anytime you take a large sample of people over a long enough period of time, some of the people will die.

Well, stop doing it, then. (  duck  ... sorry!)
 
474218
Posts: 4510
Joined: Mon Oct 10, 2005 12:27 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:08 pm

How often does someone die on board an aircraft, same as anywhere else: "Only once."
 
manu
Posts: 265
Joined: Sat Dec 11, 2004 1:22 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:09 pm

I wonder how many will die while reading threads in this forum or visiting this site?
 
B747forever
Posts: 13847
Joined: Mon May 21, 2007 9:50 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:18 pm

Quoting LHR777 (Reply 2):
It's also more common than we think. There were three deaths on-board LHR-bound aircraft just in the last 5 days.

God, does this happens so often??
Work Hard, Fly Right
 
Boeing727flyer
Posts: 129
Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 3:36 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:35 pm

I know on the A340-600 Lufthansa have stowage areas that are cold in case a passenger dies in flight.
Hail the mighty Boeing 727
 
David L
Posts: 8551
Joined: Tue May 18, 1999 2:26 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:37 pm

Quoting B747forever (Reply 31):
God, does this happens so often??

As stated above, it's not so surprising when you condider how many passenger-miles are flown every day.
 
JGPH1A
Posts: 15079
Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2003 4:36 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Sun Sep 09, 2007 11:41 pm

Quoting Hiflyer (Reply 27):
It is sorta an unwritten rule...they are officially pronounced after removal from the aircraft....most times after transport to the hospital.

So that they can't officially ask for a refund for non-completed travel. I guess.
Young and beautiful and thin and gorgeous AND BANNED ! Cya at airspaceonline.com, losers
 
EMBQA
Posts: 7858
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2003 3:52 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Mon Sep 10, 2007 1:29 am

Quoting DC10Tim (Reply 20):
Isn't it a bit risky if there is not a doctor on board?

If they get stiff, its a good sign they are dead.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
kalvado
Posts: 2706
Joined: Wed Mar 01, 2006 4:29 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Mon Sep 10, 2007 1:37 am

this winter I was on UA flight to ORD. over ch.9 I could hear DL "medical" to LAS asking for landing at ORD. It sounded pretty much as if everyone believed there is no rush there - pretty strange for a medical, unless everything was clear enough.
It never made the news, so I don't know what really happened there.
 
varigb707
Posts: 1235
Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 6:02 am

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Mon Sep 10, 2007 3:08 am

i was bored to death once, on a flight between LGW and MIA.
First, I said 'hey' and then I said 'now'. "Hey Now!" - Hank K.
 
4xRuv
Topic Author
Posts: 381
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:05 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Mon Sep 10, 2007 3:27 am

To answer some questions:
1. This wasn't an over water flight.
2. It was a 343.
3. We were told by the purser over the P/A that no breakfast can be given as someone died and they used the galley as a medical room. So I don't know how the purser decided that, but that was the announcement. (in 3 different languages)
 
cloudboy
Posts: 1124
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 12:38 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Mon Sep 10, 2007 11:18 am

My ex-girlfriend's mother passed away while in flight. She had cancer, had gone to one last attempt doctor in California, and passed away on the route home. Apparently they covered her in a blanket, moved everyone around her that they could, and diverted the plane so that they could remove the body. They apparently deplaned everyone but did it fairly quick - I am not sure how they handled that part - her father stayed with her mother. They did not actually pronounce her dead, though, until they took her to a hospital. It was some Midwest state, Wyoming or Wisconsin maybe? and in that state anything of that nature they still go through the motions of going to the hospital, just to make sure that they are, in fact, dead, and not comatose. Not everyone CAN pronounce someone dead, so that is why when circumstances allow, they usually pronounce someone dead at the hospital.
"Six becoming three doesn't create more Americans that want to fly." -Adam Pilarski
 
57AZ
Posts: 2371
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:55 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Mon Sep 10, 2007 3:01 pm

Quoting RFields5421 (Reply 25):
In the US we see highways blocked for lengthy times after auto accidents until the medical examiner can arrive and pronounce the death - even though the results of the accident make it impossible for the person to be alive.

Don't know about the rest of the world, but here in the US only a doctor can pronounce a person dead. That's why folks are pronounced Dead On Arrival at the hospital. All the medical examiner does is determine the cause of death (natural/homicide). The reason that a highway accident with a fatality might block the roadway for a long length of time is that every state has some law that prohibits the police from touching the body until the medical examiner or their representative arrives to take charge of the body. Their responsibility is to determine the cause and circumstances surrounding the death.

When my maternal grandmother died, she had been in hospice for a short time after being diagnosed with terminal kidney failure. When she passed, the hospice nurse called her supervisor to notify them of the passing, then called the local police department. They came out and collected the information needed for their report-basic information about my grandmother, patient had been diagnosed with a terminal condition and death was expected. After making their report, they called the local ambulance and transported her to the morgue. The information went to the medical examiner's office-natural death, no need for further investigation.
"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."
 
Viscount724
Posts: 19316
Joined: Thu Oct 12, 2006 7:32 pm

RE: Death On Board, Does This Happen Often?

Tue Sep 11, 2007 1:29 pm

Quoting SJCRRPAX (Reply 16):
Go ahead someone flame me for my stupid math, because I know its stupid but it's just something to think about....

Life expectancy 78 years * 365 days * 24 hours = 683,200 hours in a life

British Airways flys 90,000 pax/daily * 4 hrs (average flight time --- my guess) = 360,000 pax hours per day.

So I would guess there would be 3 or 4 deaths / week on BA Flights...

But many if not most people die as the result of serious illnesses when when they're not very likely to be flying.

I recall BA stating not long ago in response to a question on this subject that they averaged roughly 1 infllight death a month.

Quoting Aviateur (Reply 11):
Quoting Oldeuropean (Reply 3):
Seems that it happens more than expected.

Not really. I'd suggest just the opposite: globally, about five million people fly every day.

Thus, I'm not sure why it's news every time somebody passes away on board.

And another one made the news in BKK yesterday:
http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/11Sep2007_news07.php

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