Woman dies after pilot fails to divert plane, despite doctor's advice

Mrs Brittany Oswell, who was on an American Airlines plane in April 2016 with her husband Cory, collapsed during the flight but the pilot allegedly did not heed a doctor's advice to divert the plane immediately.
Mrs Brittany Oswell, who was on an American Airlines plane in April 2016 with her husband Cory, collapsed during the flight but the pilot allegedly did not heed a doctor's advice to divert the plane immediately.PHOTO: REMEMBERING BRITTANY JASMINE/ FACEBOOK

NEW YORK • Mrs Brittany Oswell suddenly felt ill about three hours into her flight from Hawaii to Texas. She was dizzy, disoriented and slurring her speech. Then, she briefly fainted.

A flight attendant on the American Airlines flight in April 2016 tracked down a doctor on board who examined her. She may have had a panic attack, the doctor said. But it soon became clear her condition was far worse.

About an hour later, the 25-year-old nurse collapsed in a lavatory, defecated and vomited on herself, and threw up on flight attendants who had come to check on her.

The doctor recommended the plane land immediately at a nearby airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But the pilot flew on to Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas after consulting with another doctor.

Mrs Oswell's breathing and pulse eventually stopped, and flight attendants tried to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation after an on-board defibrillator failed to work. She never regained consciousness, and was eventually taken off life support.

HEARTBROKEN FAMILY

A decision was made not based on the human life that was on board or based on safety... Frustration doesn't really describe how disappointed and heartbroken and just immensely discombobulating it has been.

MRS TINA STARKS, Mrs Brittany Oswell's mother.

The frenzied efforts by her husband and the doctor to save Mrs Oswell, who died three days later in a hospital of a pulmonary embolism, were detailed in a wrongful death lawsuit filed this month by her family against American Airlines.

The lawsuit alleges that the airline was negligent and ultimately contributed to her death because the pilot did not heed the doctor's pleas to divert the plane and the defibrillator and blood pressure monitor were faulty.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in South Carolina on April 18, was brought by Mrs Oswell's parents, Mr Chris Starks and Mrs Tina Starks, and her husband, Mr Cory Oswell. In an interview last Friday, her parents said they were still struggling with her death two years later. "A decision was made not based on the human life that was on board or based on safety," Mrs Starks said. "Frustration doesn't really describe how disappointed and heartbroken and just immensely discombobulating it has been."

Flight 102 was supposed to be the start of a new chapter for the Oswells, who had just wrapped up about a year living in Hawaii.

Mr Oswell, 27, who was in the army, was medically discharged and the couple were heading back to their home state, South Carolina, where they planned to live with her parents.

A spokesman for American Airlines declined to discuss the specifics of the case.

"We are deeply saddened by this event, and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Mrs Oswell's family," he said. "We are taking a look into the details of the complaint."

Meanwhile, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight on April 17, in which an engine exploded and one person was killed, filed a lawsuit against the company last Thursday.

It claims that since the accident, the passenger, Ms Lilia Chavez, has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other personal injuries.

The explosion on the Boeing 737-700 plane shattered a plane window, flinging shrapnel. Passenger Jennifer Riordan, one of 149 people on board, was killed. The incident marked the first fatality on a US commercial passenger airline since 2009.

Also named in the suit filed in Pennsylvania are France's Safran S.A., General Electric Aviation and CFM International, the manufacturers behind the engine that broke apart.

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'Woman dies after pilot fails to divert plane, despite doctor's advice'. Print Edition | Subscribe