A flight passenger has described the dramatic moment he leapt out of his seat and rushed to the aid of a dying man with Covid-19 symptoms – who was later confirmed to have had the virus.
Tony Aldapa, who is a paramedic, said he has since become symptomatic himself after helping perform CPR on the man when he stopped breathing during the United Airlines flight from Orlando to Los Angeles last week.
The man was reportedly seen sweating and shaking before his condition rapidly deteriorated around an hour into the flight.
Mr Aldapa said he and a number of other passengers responded to calls from the cabin crew for a doctor and recounted performing chest compressions for more than 45 minutes until the plane made an emergency landing in New Orleans.
Writing about the incident on Twitter over the weekend, Mr Aldapa said: ‘I knew the risks involved in performing CPR on someone that potentially has COVID but I made the choice to do so anyways.’
He added: ‘Looking back I would not change my actions, but I may have stepped up earlier. Knowing I had the knowledge, training and experience to help out, I could not have sat idly by and watched someone die.’
However, he also noted that he has ‘since become symptomatic’ himself and was awaiting results from a second test.
Speaking to MailOnline, he said ‘there was no mouth-to-mouth at all’, describing how they stuck instead to chest compressions while using ‘the oxygen mask from the plane’.
Mr Aldapa also said ‘there was no chaos on board’ despite photos taken by other passengers showing the aisle blocked by people gathered around the man.
He told MailOnline: ‘The flight crew had everything under control to the best of their ability and any passenger that was not actively helping was sitting calmly in their seats. I’ve been in chaotic situations before and that was absolutely not the case.
‘It definitely could have been, but the flight crew did an amazing job.’
United Airlines said it was initially only told the man had suffered a cardiac arrest and was waiting for further information about him potentially having coronavirus, according to the New York Post.
But in a statement to MailOnline, the airline later confirmed it had been alerted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that he was infected.
After he was taken off the plane in New Orleans his seat was wiped down and the other passengers were offered the option to either ‘take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans’, it said.
The statement went on: ‘Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.’
United said health and safety ‘is our highest priority’, adding that customers are required to complete a ‘Ready-to-Fly’ questionnaire before boarding asking them to flag if they have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the previous 14 days or experienced any symptoms.
The airline added: ‘It is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement.’
CDC spokesman Charles Hobart confirmed to the Mail that the agency has asked United for a list of the other 178 passengers on board for contact tracing purposes.
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