A United Airlines passenger who fell ill on a flight from Orlando to Los Angeles a week ago died of acute respiratory failure and COVID-19, according to a coroner’s report.
The report was released Monday by Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich of the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office in Louisiana.
United flight 591 from Orlando to Los Angeles diverted to New Orleans for the medical emergency.
The coroner’s report says the passenger was a 69-year-old man from Los Angeles. It says he died at 9:09 p.m. Dec. 14 at Ochsner Medical Center-Kenner in Kenner, where Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located.
The United flight, which had 154 passengers, departed Orlando at 7:30 p.m. and landed in New Orleans at 8:10 p.m. local time.
The plane continued on to Los Angeles despite the medical emergency and comments from fellow passengers on social media that the ill passenger had COVID-19 symptoms.
“At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” United said in a statement on Friday.
The airline did not mention COVID-19 until it released the statement, saying it had been contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a list of passengers so the CDC could work with local health officials on contact tracing. United officials confirmed the passenger had COVID-19 symptoms but did not reveal a cause of death. The airline said he had acknowledged United’s “ready to fly” pandemic health checklist, which asks passengers to certify they aren’t COVID positive and don’t have symptoms.
As of Monday, one passenger on the flight told USA TODAY he has not been contacted by the CDC.
A woman in her 30s died from COVID-19 while on a Spirit Airlines flight in July, according to airport officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The late-July flight from Las Vegas to Dallas-Fort Worth was diverted to Albuquerque when the crew reported an unresponsive female on board, Stephanie Kitts, a spokesperson for Albuquerque International Sunport, said in an email to The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network.