An autopsy has confirmed a man who died after a medical emergency mid-flight last week had COVID-19 and it likely caused his death.
The 69-year-old man, identified by the coroner as Isais Hernandez, and his wife were on a United Airlines flight from Orlando to Los Angeles on December 14 when he had a medical emergency. The plane made an emergency landing in New Orleans, and Hernandez later died.
The coroner for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, says Hernandez’s cause of death was “acute respiratory failure, COVID-19,” according to the New York Times.
A man trained as an EMT was onboard and began CPR and life-saving measures along with other passengers and flight attendants when Hernandez fell ill.
Tony Adalpa tweeted later that he had COVID-19 symptoms after helping Hernandez, and overheard his wife tell paramedics Hernandez had COVID-19 symptoms, including the loss of taste and smell.
Adalpa had originally planned on getting the COVID-19 vaccine this week. Instead, he’s waiting for a second coronavirus test result.
When the plane landed, United believed the man’s emergency was cardiac arrest, and they allowed passengers to “take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” the airline told NBC News.
The airline says they were later contacted by the CDC and “are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection," a representative for the airline told CBS LA.
United says Hernandez had filled out a questionnaire before boarding the flight, which asked about testing positive for COVID-19 and having symptoms. It is now apparent the man "wrongly acknowledged this requirement,” the airline said.
A United spokesperson told the New York Times that as of Tuesday, no other passengers or crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 since the December 14 flight.