Horrified plane passengers were grounded with a dead body for two hours after bungling staff brought wrong-sized steps for paramedics to get on board.
Airport sources said there was a “comedy of errors” as paramedics were forced to crawl onto the Air New Zealand plane, which had been diverted to Cairns, Australia, on a flight from Hong Kong. The Cairns Post reports Auckland-bound flight ANZ80 made an emergency landing at Cairns International Airport at about 2:30 am on Monday after a male passenger died midflight.
New Zealand-based Stuff reporter, Gerald Hutching, who was on the flight, said he was told by an airport official that the man, in his 60s, was diabetic and had forgotten to bring his insulin. Hutching said that airline staff called for medical help over the plane’s speakers about an hour into the 10-hour flight and a doctor attended to him.
The reporter, who described fellow passengers as “very patient” during the drama, added: “He was wearing an oxygen mask and at one stage they were using a defibrillator on him.”
“He was hunched over… he didn’t look in a good way.”
Airport sources told Cairns Post that the drama on board the plane continued after it landed. They described the emergency situation as a “comedy of errors” as no ground crew were available to assist in the removal of the body at that time of the morning. The pilot of the aircraft didn’t want passengers to use an air bridge and risk seeing the dead body.
So instead, the crew sourced a set of stairs for the aircraft — but what arrived was too small.
The source added: “They found a small set of stairs, which they put up to the aircraft door. They were totally insufficient. The paramedics had to put their kit on top of those stairs and stand on that and they were still only chest-high to the door. They had to climb into that aircraft to attend to [the passenger].”
It’s understood the paramedics had to remove the body from the aircraft via the stairs as, due to the emergency landing early in the morning, accessing the aircraft became problematic while the plane sat on the tarmac.
An Air New Zealand spokesperson confirmed to News.com.au that there had been a medical emergency onboard the aircraft.
The airline said: “NZ80 (Hong Kong – Auckland) diverted to Cairns on Monday morning when a passenger became unwell shortly after departure.”
“As you’ll appreciate, due to privacy reasons, we’re unable to share further details about the passenger. After leaving Cairns, the aircraft continued on to Auckland, arriving about two hours after its scheduled arrival time.”
Following media coverage of the death, the airline attracted negative comments about the length of time it took to remove the man’s body. This prompted a woman from New Zealand, who said she was his sister, to post on Facebook: “Thank you to the people who have made compassionate comments. To the others… maybe if this happens to your family you will be a little less negative… his sister.”
And a woman passenger posted on Facebook: “We [were] on that flight. Staff was (sic) so professional. Two doctors were on board. Was sure a long trip home but nothing [compared] to what the poor guy’s family would have to deal with.”
However, questions have been raised about the availability of emergency insulin on the plane, with some asking why “injections aren’t carried on board for exactly that situation. Diabetes is a pretty common condition.”
This story originally appeared on The Sun. Read more content from The Sun here.