FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – An 83-year-old woman died during a recent Spirit Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to the Juan Santamaría International Airport in Costa Rica, the airline reported Friday evening. A nurse said the crew forced passengers -- including children -- to walk by the uncovered woman’s corpse.
According to Erik Hofmeyer, a spokesman for the Miramar-based airline, there were five passengers with medical training on the flight who administered CRP and flight attendants had an automated external defibrillator.
“We believe the flight attendants used every avenue available to help our guest,” Hofmeyer wrote in an e-mail.
Nathalie Albino, who is certified on CPR and advanced cardiovascular life support, disagrees. The Broward Health Medical Center nurse wants the airline to spend more resources on training their crew members to handle emergency situations like the one she experienced.
Albino was on her way to plan her destination wedding in Costa Rica when she volunteered to help the unresponsive woman. Albino said she and three others performed CPR at the emergency exit row in front of three other passengers. She said they were unassisted by the flight crew.
After 35 minutes, a doctor on the flight pronounced the woman dead.
“There was nothing else we could do to bring her back,” Albino said.
Albino said they requested a blanket to cover the woman’s corpse, but the crew did not provide one.
“We had to take her sweater off of her and physically put it over her head,” Albino said.
Albino said they also requested to move the body away from the other passengers, but the crew was unable to do that as well.
“I just remember the flight attendant looking at me and she said, ‘No, we have to buckle her back into her seat,’” Albino said.
Feeling powerless, Albino said she returned to her seat. Once they landed, she said, the woman’s corpse was not removed from the plane. Instead, each passenger -- including her son -- had to disembark, walking past the dead woman.
“It was pretty disrespectful,” Albino’s fiancé, Jonathan Bunda, who was also on the flight, said. “You know, imagine if it was your mother or grandmother.”
Albino said it was frustrating to see how ill-prepared the flight crew was to handle the situation.
“The flight attendant that I was speaking to after this whole ordeal told me that he did not feel prepared,” she said.
Hofmeyer said there were several inaccuracies with Albino’s account. He said the flight was not diverted because it was closer to San Jose, Costa Rica, than other airports at the time.
“Turning around would have resulted in taking longer to land,” he said. “The woman was also a Costa Rican national.”
Hofmeyer also said Costa Rican law requires guests to leave the plane first.
“We deplaned first that was what we were required to do by law,” he said. “Saying that we forced people (out of the plane first) is a flat-out lie.”
Hofmeyer also noted that Spirit flight attendants are trained to handle medical emergencies.