S.C. Nurse Dies on Plane After Pilot Ignores Doctor's Plead to Land
Apr. 26—She was a newlywed and a nurse who was coming back home to continue her studies. But Brittany Oswell never made it to Columbia.
The 25-year-old Lexington woman died in a Texas hospital after suffering an embolism and going into cardiac arrest on an American Airlines flight from Honolulu.
Now Oswell's parents and widowed husband are suing the airline. Cory Oswell, Brittany's husband, and her parents, Christopher and Tina Starks, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against American Airlines, according to their attorney Brad Cranshaw.
Brittany and Cody were flying from Hawaii, where he was stationed as part of his military service, to South Carolina, with a stop in Dallas-Fort Worth, on April 15, 2016.
Somewhere over Los Angeles, Brittany began to feel ill, according to the lawsuit, which described her symptoms as dizziness and disorientation and said she was slurring her speech before fainting.
A doctor who was a passenger on the flight spoke to Brittany after she regained consciousness. The doctor initially believed Brittany was having a panic attack, according to the lawsuit.
Between one and three hours later, when the flight was over Albuquerque, N.M., Brittany went to use the bathroom, where she was discovered lying on the floor having vomited and defecated on herself, according to the lawsuit.
When the doctor examined Brittany a second time, she "directed the flight attendants to inform the flight crew that it needed to divert the plane ... to the nearest airport, so Brittany could receive proper medical care," according to the lawsuit.
No landing was ever attempted, according to the lawsuit.
"The doctor asked to land the plane three times," Cranshaw said to The State Wednesday. "The doctor who was holding Brittany was begging them to land."
Cranshaw said it was at this time the doctor discovered that the medical equipment on the plane was not functioning.
When the doctor tried to take Brittany's blood pressure, one of the plane's cuffs didn't work and the other was broken, according to the lawsuit.
Approximately 30 minutes after the doctor first asked for an emergency landing, the flight's captain "summoned the doctor to the flight deck," where she reported Brittany's symptoms to the physician on call for American Airlines, but the captain elected to continue to Dallas-Fort Worth, which was 90 minutes away at that time, according to the lawsuit.
Approximately 5 minutes after the doctor returned from the cockpit, Brittany stopped breathing and her pulse stopped, according to the lawsuit, adding that the doctor attempted to use a defibrillator but no shock was administered despite three attempts.
The doctor and flight attendants administered CPR, but Brittany never regained consciousness on the flight or thereafter, the lawsuit says.
Brittany was taken to Baylor Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with brain damage and an embolism, according to the lawsuit.
On April 18, a doctor diagnosed Brittany with no brain activity, and she was removed from life support and declared dead, according to the lawsuit, which listed her cause of death as acute massive pulmonary embolism and cardiogenic shock.
"When Brittany got on the plane, she stepped into her coffin," Cranshaw said. "It's a tragedy."
American Airlines issued a statement to wbtv.com saying, "We take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we are looking into the details of the complaint."
Brittany's family accuses American Airlines of negligence, according to the lawsuit. They are seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury for severe emotional distress, anxiety, grief, and sorrow.
"What can we do to right this?" Cranshaw asked. "Cody has no wife, and Christopher and Tina are left without their daughter."
Cranshaw said American Airlines had not answered the lawsuit as of Wednesday afternoon. He was not aware if there was any investigation by the airline or the FAA.
Cranshaw said he expects a jury trial to begin in a year to 18 months. He added that the doctor who was a passenger on the plane is not named in the lawsuit, but he plans to call her as a witness.
Cranshaw said the main issues he will address at a trial are, "the doctor begged the pilot to land, and there was broken equipment on the plane."