A breast-feeding mother accidentally smothered her four-week old child aboard a United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., to Kuwait, a British tabloid reported Tuesday.
The Sun newspaper said that the mother, who it said was a 29-year-old Egyptian-born woman, fell asleep as she breast-fed on the jet and awoke to find that the child had been smothered. The paper said the plane was diverted to London's Heathrow in an attempt to save the baby's life.
The paper cited an unnamed police source in its reporting. Scotland Yard confirmed that a United Airlines plane had been diverted to Heathrow in late November after reports that a four-week-old girl was in distress. The police said in a statement that the baby was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead. It added that an autopsy had been performed, but the results were still pending.
"The death is being treated as unexplained and the Child Abuse Investigation Team is investigating the circumstances," the statement said.
Scotland Yard did not go into further detail, although Britain's Press Association news agency reported that such investigations were standard practice. A police spokesman declined comment when asked about the child's mother, although he noted that there had been no arrests. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with force policy.
United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said that Flight 982, a Boeing 777 flying from Washington's Dulles Airport to Kuwait City, was diverted to London on Nov. 25 because of what she said was an ill passenger. A doctor aboard the flight helped while the plane was still in the air, Urbanski said.
Once the ground, local authorities took over, and Urbanski said she had no information about what happened to the passenger next, although the flight later proceeded to Kuwait.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that sharing a bed or sleeping with an infant can be hazardous under certain conditions.