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California congressman helps passenger who passed out during flight

Congressman Raul Ruiz speaks during the 2nd Annual Sean Penn and Friends Help Haiti Home Gala in January in Los Angeles.
Congressman Raul Ruiz speaks during the 2nd Annual Sean Penn and Friends Help Haiti Home Gala in January in Los Angeles.Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for J/P HRO file

A California congressman helped resuscitate a man who had passed out on an American Airlines flight to Dallas-Fort Worth on Thursday morning.

U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif. — who is an emergency room physician — was on a plane from Washington, D.C., to DFW International Airport when a man lost consciousness about 30 minutes into the flight.

“That’s when Congressman Ruiz stepped in and administered help,” said Michael Ford, a spokesman for Ruiz.

The congressman and a firefighter aboard the plane provided oxygen to the ailing passenger and put on a defibrillator to check his vital signs, Ford said. There were 125 passengers and five crew members aboard the plane.

“He is a physician first and foremost, before he was ever a congressman,” Ford said. “He still is a doctor first; in that situation, luckily the congressman was able to step in and provide the care the gentleman needed at that time.”

The plane made an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina, where it was met by medical personnel, according to Mike Trevino, a spokesman for American Airlines. The airline could not confirm the status of the passenger.

NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported that Ruiz estimated the passenger to be in his mid-60s and said the passenger was alert and talking to paramedics by the time the plane landed. 

The flight then continued to Dallas-Fort Worth, where Ruiz boarded another plane back to his district office in Palm Springs, Calif.

U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, was also on the plane and “felt safer having Congressman Ruiz on the plane,” said Markel Bilbao, a spokesman for Gallego.

Gallego tweeted his support for Ruiz’s efforts. 

Ruiz told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that this was not the first such incident. He said he's been able to help a handful of other passengers who've passed out on flights home from D.C.