Haitian woman dies during airline flight
Brooklyn woman allegedly refused oxygen
Forty-four-year-old Carine Desir had no idea that she would die on a flight returning from her native Haiti to New York.
Desir was a passenger on an American Airlines flight when she complained of not feeling well and being very thirsty. Desir had just finished eating a meal on the flight home from Port-au-Prince to John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to Antonio Oliver, a cousin who was traveling with her and her brother.
A few minutes later, Desir said she was having trouble breathing and asked for oxygen.
She said, “My darling, please don’t let me die. Go ask for some oxygen for me please,” said Oliver. After pleading with the flight attendants for oxygen, he says they responded with two portable tanks. But according to Oliver, a flight attendant twice refused her request.
Airline spokesman Charley Wilson said Desir’s cousin flagged down a flight attendant and said Desir had diabetes and needed oxygen. “The flight attendant responded, ‘OK, but we usually don’t need to treat diabetes with oxygen, but let me check anyway and get back to you, Wilson said.
The employee spoke to another flight attendant, and both approached Desir within three minutes, according to Wilson.
Wilson said three flight attendants helped Desir. One of the flight attendants tried to administer oxygen from a portable tank and mask, but Oliver insists both tanks were empty. Wilson said the fight attendants “stepped back” after doctors and nurses on the flight began to help Desir.
“The doctor said, ‘Nothing is working in the plane, I can’t believe it,” Oliver said. The doctor, in a statement released by his attorney, says, “Oxygen tanks were available,” but that he cannot “confirm any level of oxygen that may have been contained in them.”
Wilson and doctor Joel Shulkin said the defibrillator indicated that Desir’s heartbeat was too weak for the unit to work.
“The doctor said, ‘Nothing is working in the plane, I can’t believe it,” Oliver claims. “Her last words were, ‘I cannot breathe,” he said.
Oliver said he then asked for the plane to “land right away so I can get her to a hospital,” and the pilot agreed to divert to Miami, 45 minutes away. But during that time Desir collapsed and died.
The medical examiner says that Desir, who had a history of heart disease, died after her heart stopped beating.
Desir’s family is claiming that the crew ignored her pleas until it was too late.
“Desir’s body was moved to the floor of the first-class section and covered with a blanket,” Oliver said.
But officials at American Airlines said, “Oxygen was administered and the automatic external defibrillator was applied.” A spokesman said, “The airline stands behind the actions and training of its crew and the functionality of the onboard medical equipment.”
“They’re not expected to be miracle workers in the airplane,” said aviation attorney Marc Moller.
Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office, said that Desir died of complications from heart disease and diabetes.
“The only good that can come out of this tragedy is if every airline makes sure all of their life-saving equipment that’s on board the plane is working 100 percent,” New York Senator Chuck Schumer said.