Family blames American Airlines crew for death of Brooklyn...

Claude - March 24 2008, 12:11 PM

Family blames American Airlines crew for death of Brooklyn nurse
Dimitry Fontus, 10, sobs as his dad, Mario, dabs at his eyes. Maisel/News
Dimitry Fontus, 10, sobs as his dad, Mario, dabs at his eyes.
Carine Desir (r.) died on a flight from Haiti to New York.
Carine Desir (r.) died on a flight from Haiti to New York.
Everyone agrees that an hour after American Airlines Flight 896 took off, Carine Desir started gasping desperately for breath.

The Brooklyn nurse, on her way home from a mercy mission to help relatives in Haiti, pleaded for help, but things quickly got worse.

"Don't let me die," moaned the 44-year-old mother of two, who suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.

Within minutes, Desir was lying unconscious on the floor of the packed plane - and the pilot issued a frantic call for any doctors onboard the Airbus A300-600 jet.
That's where the disagreement starts.

Desir's family says airline flight attendants didn't move quickly enough to help her and that lifesaving equipment was not working.

The airline says the flight attendants reacted quickly and tried to give her oxygen from tanks kept onboard - and that all the equipment was working.

A pediatrician from suburban Boston raced up the aisle and used a defibrillator to try to revive her, but she was fading fast - and the pilot nosed the plane toward a possible emergency landing in Miami.

Forty-five minutes after the crisis started, it was over. Dr. Joel Shulkin, a former Air Force doctor who lives in Brighton, Mass., pronounced Desir dead.
Crew members bundled Desir up in blankets and moved her up to the first-class cabin in the first three rows, which a spokesman called a "less-populated" area of the plane.

Instead of landing in Miami, the pilot continued to New York, where Desir's heartbroken relatives waited for a reunion that never came Friday night.

"It's hard to lose your mother when you're 10," little Dimitry Fontus sobbed in the family's Lefferts Gardens apartment.

"I loved her so much."
Tears streamed down the face of Desir's only son as he turned to kiss his dad.
"This was her life," said Mario Fontus, Carine Desir's husband, hugging the boy. "We're going to make sure he's okay."
The family angrily claimed American Airlines failed to help Desir.

A cousin traveling with Desir charged that flight attendants first refused to give oxygen to Desir, and that two oxygen tanks were empty.

A defibrillator also failed to work, the family said.
"They went back for a second one and it was empty [too]," Fontus said. "I mean, come on."
Federal authorities are investigating the family's claims.

An autopsy revealed Desir died of heart disease and diabetes.

American Airlines offered its condolences to the family, but vigorously defended its handling of Desir's case.
The airline insisted that oxygen tanks and the defibrillator were working well and said the staff acted properly.

"Our flight attendants and crew did what they are trained to do," said Tim Wagner, an American Airlines spokesman.

Sources close to the case speculated that Desir's relatives may have thought the oxygen tanks were empty because a doctor shouted that she was not getting air or breathing.

Likewise, the defibrillator is designed to emit a shock only when the patient's heart requires it, which may not have been the case for Desir.

Wagner said the first flight attendant immediately went to seek help when Desir complained of shortness of breath - and insisted she started getting help within three minutes.

None of that rang true to the family of Desir, a big-hearted woman who journeyed several hours into the Haitian countryside to give money to hungry relatives.

Right before she got on the plane home, Desir told her daughter the trip was worthwhile because she made a difference.

"'Everyone is going to eat,'" she told her daughter Tatiana Saint-Victor.

"'I feel like I've accomplished something.'"
Click for story and pictures:



Racked by grief and pleading for a miracle, the daughter of a woman who died aboard an American Airlines flight filled...

Return to Message List