Snakes on a plane? That is so 2006 ... try scorpions on a plane!
In two separate instances, airline passengers were stung by scorpions after returning home from vacations.
A scorpion stung David Sullivan on the back of his right leg, just below the knee, then crawled up and down his left leg, he thinks, before getting him again in the shin.
Not what he was expecting on his flight home from Chicago to Vermont.
Sullivan, a 46-year-old builder from Stowe, was aboard the United Airlines flight on the second leg of his trip home from San Francisco, where he and his wife Helena had been visiting their sons. He awoke from a nap shortly before landing and noticed something strange.
“My right leg felt like it was asleep, but that was isolated to one spot, and it felt like it was being jabbed with a sharp piece of plastic or something.”
The second sting came after the plane had landed and the Sullivans were waiting for their bags at the luggage carousel. Sullivan rolled up his cuff to investigate, and the scorpion fell out.
“It felt like a shock, a tingly thing. Someone screamed, ‘It’s a scorpion,”’ Sullivan recalled. Another passenger stepped on the two-inch arachnid, and someone suggested Sullivan seek medical help.
Stowaway scorpion No. 2
Separately, a stowaway scorpion that stung a man on board a plane headed to Toronto caused a delay at the airport as investigators combed the aircraft for further arachnids, an airline spokesman said Monday.
The scorpion apparently crawled out of the man's carry-on knapsack on American Airlines flight 1552 from Miami to Toronto on Sunday morning, said John Hotard, a company spokesman in Fort Worth, Texas.
"We delayed the outbound flight and searched the cabin of the aircraft to see if we could find any more, which we did not," said Hotard.
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He said there was no indication the scorpion was brought on the plane intentionally.
A return flight to Miami was delayed by less than an hour after touching down at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Hotard said the man told airline officials he was returning to Canada from a camping trip with his brother in Costa Rica, from where the scorpion likely originated.
"This is rare," said Hotard. "I'm not aware of a scorpion stinging a person on any of our flights before."
Still, "we get critters on board from time to time," he said.
After the plane touched down in Toronto, the passenger initially said he was alright but then reported feeling some "numbness," said Hotard, who couldn't provide further details on the man's health.
Fire and emergency crew responded and the man was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said.
Unclear how scorpion boarded plane
Sullivan scooped up the scorpion and headed to the hospital in Burlington. His wife stopped at the United counter and was told the plane they were on had flown from Houston to Chicago. The Sullivans surmised the scorpion boarded in Texas.
“The airlines tell you you can’t bring water or shampoo on a plane,” Helena Sullivan said. But the scorpion did make it aboard, she said.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the incident “is something that we will investigate and look into. We’re very sorry for what happened. Our customer safety and security is our No. 1 priority.”
Scorpion stings are rarely fatal, except to babies or older people with health problems, said Dr. Stephen Leffler, director of emergency services at Burlington’s Fletcher Allen Health Care hospital.
“We don’t see many scorpion bites in Vermont,” Leffler said.
For a healthy adult, a scorpion sting can mean numbness or shooting pain extending out from the bite, or flu-like symptoms, which Sullivan said he had the next day.
He said he hadn’t seen the recent movie, “Snakes on a Plane,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.
“I’m pretty selective about what I see,” Sullivan said. “Maybe I have to see it now.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.