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Is Virgin America Responsible for This Passenger’s Death?

Is Virgin America Responsible for This Passenger’s Death?
Jackie Reddy

Relatives of Romulo C. Valdez have filed for damages in excess of $75,000 and are seeking to change the carrier’s policy on emergency medical landings.

The relatives of an elderly man who died while on a trans-continental flight have claimed that their loved one’s death was caused by the negligence of the cabin crew, The Washington Post reports. 93-year-old Romulo C. Valdez was traveling with his daughter, Nicette Balukjian, on a Boston-bound Virgin America flight from San Francisco in July when he passed away.

An official complaint, which has been filed this week by the family in California district court, indicates that Valdez came into medical distress about halfway through the five-hour journey. Valdez was fitted with a pacemaker and was diagnosed with an undisclosed medical condition that required the use of an oxygen tank.

At this point in the flight, Valdez reportedly told Balukjian that he needed to use the tank, but his daughter struggled to quickly connect the apparatus. While Balukjian did not explicitly request assistance, the outlet reports that crew offered minimal help and also did not attempt to find a doctor from among the plane’s passengers.

Balukjian was able to connect the tank after 15 minutes, but by this time, her father had stopped breathing. At this point, a member of the cabin crew called for medical assistance and offered to let her use the plane’s oxygen supplies. Valdez then received treatment via an automated external defibrillator, but remained unresponsive. Speaking in a phone interview, Balukjian described the situation as “awful,” adding, “I thought that we were going to land the plane, and it just never happened.”

When the plan landed, Balukjian was instructed to stay seated and says that she and her father were left in full view of disembarking passengers.

Balukjian is attempting to claim for damages of more than $75,000, but is also seeking to change Virgin America’s stance on emergency landings for elderly passengers who are receiving oxygen treatment and in medical distress.

In an official statement, the carrier said that, “Our hearts go out to the family for the loss of their loved one,” but that the crew “did what they could” to offer assistance to Balukjian.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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