Widow: Southwest prevented me from calling my suicidal husband

A Southwest passenger wonders if she could have saved her husband's life had a crewmember not intervened.

A Southwest passenger wonders if she could have saved her husband's life had a crewmember not intervened.  (AP Photo)

A Wisconsin woman is looking for answers after she said Southwest Airlines refused to let her use her cellphone to make a call that could have saved her husband's life. 

On April 3, Karen Momsen-Evers was flying back to Milwaukee after a girls’ trip in New Orleans. Right before takeoff, she received a text from her husband that read: “Karen, please forgive me for what I am about to do, I am going to kill myself…”

"I started shaking and I was panicked," Momsen-Evers told "I texted him ‘no, 'no,’ and he responded, 'yes, because I have to.'"

The text reached her just as flight crew were finishing cabin checks, but she said she knew the text was "serious" because her husband, who'd been very stressed recently, never threatened suicide before.  She said that she told a male flight attendant what was happening and showed him the text messages.  

"The steward slapped the phone down and said 'you have to put that in airplane mode. We were pushing away from the gate,'" Momsen-Evers recalls. The unidentified crew member explained that it was “FAA regulations.”

Helpless, Momsen-Evers waited until airborne to reach out to another flight attendant for help and asked if they could make an emergency call from the cockpit.

"I showed her the texts. She said that she there is nothing she could do and that they could not disturb the pilot.  They offered me a drink, that was it," says Momsen-Evers. "I just wanted someone to go and try to save him.”

Momsen-Evers says she spent the duration of the two-hour flight sobbing in her seat and was only able to call police after the plane arrived at the gate in Milwaukee. But when Momsen-Evers arrived home she was met by officers who told her that her husband Andy had already taken his life.

Later, Momsen-Evers called the airline through customer service to see if there was anything she could have done.  She said she was told that FAA rules prevented cellphone use during flights.  Her friend, who bought the tickets on with her own miles for Momsen-Evers, was later offered a refund.  Momsen-Evers said she has not been in touch with the airline since then.

In response to the incident, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King sent the following statement: 

"We are extremely saddened to learn of Mrs. Evers’ loss, and the Southwest Family extends our deepest condolences. While I am unable to offer specifics on this situation, Southwest Airlines transports more than 100 million Customers a year and it's not uncommon for our Crews to assist passengers with life events. Our Employees utilize their training to handle a wide variety of situations to the best of their ability – while assisting  the up to 100 plus passengers onboard and executing Safety procedures to prepare a flight for departure and for arrival. Again, our hearts go out to the Evers' Family during this difficult time. "

The airline had earlier released this statement to the local news outlet WMTJ:

"Our hearts go out to the Evers family during this difficult time. Our flight attendants are trained to notify the Captain if there is an emergency that poses a hazard to the aircraft or to the passengers on-board. In this situation, the pilots were not notified."

Momsen-Evers says she understands that the crew needed to consider the safety of everyone on board her flight, but says more could have been done to possibly save her husband's life.

"No one could say if it would have made a difference, but I just wanted someone to do a well- check where the police could check on someone suicidal," she said. "I wasn’t looking to get off or stop the airplane. I was just looking for someone to make a phone call."