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Virgin America

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]

View Comments (10)

10 Comments

  1. Praveen002

    January 11, 2018 at 4:14 am

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  2. EbonyTatas

    January 11, 2018 at 6:18 am

    93 year olds with heart conditions have no business flying. My heart goes out to the other passangers on the flight that were likely delayed upon arrival due to the selfish negligence of this man and his family.

  3. strickerj

    January 11, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Not to be heartless, but it sounds to be as though the daughter was the negligent one – she knows about her father’s condition and travels with him, but doesn’t know how to connect his breather? And didn’t request assistance after her father stopped breathing?

    I agree the crew could have sought a doctor on board, and declared an emergency and attempted to land, but on the other hand, it was probably already too late by the time they knew anything was going on.

  4. cairns

    January 11, 2018 at 7:18 am

    No.

  5. dogcanyon

    January 11, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Virgin America is an airline, not a flying ambulance service. The man was 93 years old with a pacemaker and another medical condition that required the use of oxygen. It would be really interesting to know if the family bothered to ask his physician beforehand whether he was medically fit to take a transcontinental flight. Also, knowing beforehand that he might need oxygen in flight his daughter was so unprepared that she fumbled for 15 minutes before getting it hooked up and while doing so never explicitly asked the crew for help. Sorry, if I were on the jury on this one I would award nothing.

  6. GrayAnderson

    January 11, 2018 at 10:17 am

    I find it darkly farcical that someone is filing a lawsuit seeking to change the policies of an airline whose operating certificate is going away tomorrow (due to the merger). Clearly somebody’s lawyer has never heard of the term “moot”.

  7. farwest101

    January 11, 2018 at 11:14 am

    If I were on the flight, I’d countersue for emotional distress for a nitwit bringing a 93yr who was on death’s door on to a commercial flight.

  8. edgewood49

    January 11, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Oh come on Headers like yours serve no real purpose other than get you hits and frankly irresponsible

  9. Artpen100

    January 11, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    I don’t see any negligence on the airline’s part. Also, it takes a while to find an acceptable airport and land a plane for a medical emergency even if the pilot is aware of it. Sounds to me like this one will be dismissed. There is not a claim in all these facts.

  10. arcticflier

    January 12, 2018 at 2:54 am

    Had a doctor assisted then he/she would likely he named in this lawsuit as well. The lawsuit is a result of misdirected grief and/or profit motivated.

    I agree with the other posters that the family member should have been better prepared; however, if the crew was witnessing a passenger “in distress” then it is their job to recognize such and ACT.

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