A pilot suffered a heart attack in midair aboard a United Airlines flight to Seattle on Thursday evening, and later died after the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Boise, Idaho, a hospital spokeswoman told NBC News.
A doctor and military personnel reportedly attempted to save the pilot’s life by administering CPR amid a dramatic scene, as another passenger rushed to help get the plane safely to the ground.
The spokeswoman at Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Boise confirmed the pilot’s death on Friday morning. United Airlines spokeswoman Christen David said that the flight’s captain was the individual involved in an email to NBC News.
The pilot was alive when he arrived at the local hospital but died during the night while being treated, hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Krajnik told the Associated Press.
“I am sad to confirm that our co-worker passed away last night,” David said. “Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
The Ada County Coroner’s Office identified identified the pilot as 63-year-old Henry Skillern of Humble, Tex., according to NBC station KING 5 in Seattle. The cause of death was given as acute myocardial infarction.
Boise Airport spokeswoman Patti Miller told Reuters that the airport received a call “at about 7:55 p.m. Mountain Time declaring an emergency, they said the pilot had had a heart attack.”
"We've got a man down, chest compressions going on right now," a co-pilot said to the Boise tower, according to a recording of the flight-to-tower communication.
The plane landed less than 15 minutes later, Miller told the news service.
Passengers said two Army soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord on the flight assisted a doctor in attempting to treat the pilot before the arrival of first responders, KING 5 reported. A passenger who trains Boeing 737 pilots aided the co-pilot as the plane made the emergency landing in Boise after the unconscious pilot was removed from the cockpit, passengers said, according to the station.
Once on the ground, a pilot of another plane radioed air traffic control for information:
"What's going on?" the pilot asked.
"Medical emergency, the captain," came the answer.
"That's never good," the pilot replied.
The airport spokeswoman told Reuters that the plane’s passengers got off the plane and waited for another pilot to take over the flight. The flight landed in Seattle just after midnight local time.
The 737 had 161 passengers and six crew members on board. The name of the pilot has not been released.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published September 27 2013, 4:49 PM