Posted Feb. 26, 2008 – American Airlines officials said Monday that crew members did all they could to save a 44-year-old Haitian-born woman as she gasped her final words, “Don’t let me die.”
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Their account conflicted with that of the passenger’s cousin, who said that Carine Desir was denied oxygen and that the plane’s medical devices failed.
"American Airlines, after investigation, has determined that oxygen was administered on the aircraft, and it was working, and the defibrillator was applied as well," airline spokesman Charley Wilson said Monday.
Following her meal, the passenger reportedly said she felt ill and was very thirsty during the flight home to New York from Port-au-Prince , Haiti . She was traveling with her cousin, Antonio Oliver, and brother, Joel Desir. A flight attendant gave the passenger water, but moments later she complained of having trouble breathing and asked for oxygen, Oliver told The Associated Press. "Don't let me die," Oliver said his cousin pleaded.
As frustrated passengers looked on, Oliver said, a flight attendant fitted Carine Desir with an oxygen mask but a portable tank was empty. Two doctors and two nurses on board tried to administer oxygen from a different tank, but that was also empty, he said. The medics laid Carine Desir on the floor of the plane and attempted CPR and used a defibrillator – an electrical device used to revive the heart – but the device did not function properly, he said. "Her last words were, 'I cannot breathe,'" he said. But Wilson said that there were 12 oxygen tanks on the plane and the crew checked them before the flight took off to make sure they were working. At least two were used on Desir, Wilson said.
"Our crew acted very admirably. They did what they were trained to do, and the equipment was working," he said. Joel Shulkin, one of the doctors who tended to Carine Desir, pronounced her dead, and the flight continued to John F. Kennedy International Airport . Her body was laid on the floor of the first-class section and covered with a blanket, Oliver said.
Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office, told AP that Carine Desir died of complications from heart disease and diabetes.
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