Boy dies on flight: 'Why wasn't plane turned around?'

Authorities were called to Faleolo International Airport prior to a Samoa Airways flight touching...
Authorities were called to Faleolo International Airport prior to a Samoa Airways flight touching down on Boxing Day. Photo: Getty Images

A passenger on board a flight on which a young boy died has described the heartbreaking moment the child started to panic 30 minutes into the journey.

The woman, who asked not to be named, was travelling with her partner on the Samoa Airways OL732 flight from Auckland to Apia on Boxing Day last year.

About 30 minutes after take-off, a young boy seated with his parents started panicking, she said.

"The boy and his parents [initially] did sit somewhere in the middle or nearer to the front of the plane. But after he started panicking, the flight attendants told the parents to bring him to the back of the plane."

She said as the situation escalated, staff worked to help the boy.

"The flight attendants were amazing. They did everything they could,'' the passenger said.

"The co-pilot or the pilot came down to see the situation - I thought by then the plane would land at the nearest airport. However, it still did not."

The woman described harrowing scenes as staff tried in vain to save the boy.

"I saw the boy's feet turning blue every minute and when the flight attendant brought the boy to his mother - so she can properly say goodbye to him - I saw the lifelessness in the boy's eyes.''

The passenger said she was not speaking out about what happened that fateful day to criticise anyone.

However, she wanted to understand why the plane did not make an emergency landing or return to Auckland - particularly as the child started showing signs of distress not long into the flight.

"Why wasn't the plane turned around? What else could have prevented this? What is the protocol in this kind of situation?"

She also expressed how difficult it was for other passengers after the event.

"I also do need to stress how the passengers weren't treated properly after a traumatic event like this. I had to go see a doctor and got diagnosed for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)."

Samoa Airways is the state-owned flag carrier airline of Samoa.

The New Zealand Herald emailed the company with questions about the woman's claims, but did not receive a response.

However, in an earlier statement, a spokesman at the time of the incident said cabin crew helped and treated the passenger with oxygen. When their condition deteriorated, CPR was carried out by staff and a defibrillator was used.

"Unfortunately, there were no medical personnel on board the flight.''

The airline said family members later revealed that the boy had a medical history that had not been disclosed to the airline prior to the flight.

"Samoa Airways offers its heartfelt condolences to the grieving family and will be assisting with the transfer of the deceased back to New Zealand once the family's plans have been finalised.''

A spokeswoman for the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade confirmed that the New Zealand High Commission in Apia, the island nation's capital city, was providing consular assistance to the family.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said: "The purpose of our investigations is to ascertain safety lessons for civil aviation, so a death caused by a medical issue death on board an aircraft is not something we would investigate, (unless the operation of the aircraft somehow contributed to the medical event)."

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