Man dies before boarding an airplane?
March 18, 2002 10:12 PM   Subscribe

Man dies before boarding an airplane? Or did he die in midflight? "Authorities disagree on whether Walsh, who had a history of heart- and kidney-related health problems, died midflight or before he boarded the plane." What really gets me is: how could he get on the airplane if he was already dead? Wouldn't the people helping him onto the plane notice?
posted by Kevin Sanders (13 comments total)
One word: Wheelchair.
posted by Neale at 10:23 PM on March 18, 2002

1) He was in a wheelchair, apparently asleep.

2) When the flight attendant inquired during the flight, she was told that he was sedated and sleeping.

It is entirely possible that he passed away in the Phoenix terminal and that his daughter and son-in-law truly thought he was sleeping heavily. It is also possible that he passed away in the terminal, the traveling companions knew it, and they pretended he was asleep in order to avoid a scene and get him back home. If the latter case is true then they are guilty of transporting a dead body improperly, which is a fairly serious charge. The trick would be proving that charge, and in this case there is little or no evidence of wrongdoing. It's not like they strapped grandma to the roof of the car and drove her across country on their way to Wally World.
posted by Lokheed at 10:28 PM on March 18, 2002

My favorite quote: "We never would have allowed a passenger who had passed away to board an aircraft." Good heavens! That would be terribly improper.
posted by Loudmax at 10:59 PM on March 18, 2002

He's not dead...He's resting.
posted by planetkyoto at 11:30 PM on March 18, 2002

The airlines couldn't prevent a group of people heavily armed with, uh, boxcutters from killing thousands, and you expect them to be able to distinguish the living from the dead?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:33 PM on March 18, 2002

they are guilty of transporting a dead body improperly...not like they strapped grandma to the roof of the car and drove her across country

if you haven't seen the fine flick The Leningrad Cowboys Do America, and are into frozen bass players being transported cross-country with the band on the roof of the car in a beer-filled coffin on their way to a wedding gig in mexico, you should definitely check it out.

i mean, who isn't into that?
posted by carsonb at 11:43 PM on March 18, 2002

I think they authorities will let this blow over, lest they not be the bad guys. I wouldn't be surprised that he died even earlier. The autopsy guy said rigor mortis set in by the time he got there. How long is a flight from Arizona to Iowa? Let's say his body temperature was cold (which is possible when flying on an airplane) then it would take 6-26 hours for rigor mortis to set in. If this guy didn't die before or in the terminal then he would have died during take-off.
posted by geoff. at 12:24 AM on March 19, 2002

I think he was probably dead well before he got on the plane. They said he was in full rigor, which usually takes at least 8 hours and they mentioned that his fingers were purple during the flight, which is a sign of lividity (blood settling after the heart ceases to beat.) It starts about half an hour to 2 hours post-mortem, and sets completely in eight to twelve hours. [Cite] According to Expedia, an American West Express flight from Phoenix to Des Moines takes 3 hours, 46 minutes, not enough time for rigor or lividity to get to full set.

That said, I doubt anything will happen to these folks beyond a slap on the wrist fine. You'd have to be pretty damned desperate to con a corpse onto an airline considering all the new security measures. For anybody morbidly curious: a dead man's plane ticket costs 290 dollars; shipping a body legally from state to state costs a minimum of 695 dollars, with added mortuary costs going as high as 2000 dollars.
posted by headspace at 2:37 AM on March 19, 2002

Headspace, thanks for the informed commentary. Are you in the medical or funeral profession?
posted by luser at 4:27 AM on March 19, 2002

He's not dead...He's resting.

Look 'ere, mate, I took the liberty of examining that old man when I got him home, and I discovered the only reason that he had been sitting in his wheelchair in the first place was that he'd been NAILED there!
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:08 AM on March 19, 2002

luser: Nah, I'm a writer, all of my knowledge about the dead comes from slumming with homicide detectives and bugging coroners. They hate me, but it's very enlightening!
posted by headspace at 6:34 AM on March 19, 2002

The report then says a flight attendant checked on Walsh, and the daughter-in-law told her he was "just sedated, sleeping and had a pulse."
now maybe it's just me, but did this sound suspicious? when anyone asks if someone i know is sleeping, i'm sure to mention that they have a strong pulse just for the hell of it... perhaps the daughter-in-law knew he was dead and was just trying to get on the plane. how wierd would that feel though. knowing your sitting next to a dead man.
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 11:10 AM on March 19, 2002

You people REALLY ought to call the local TV stations here in Des Moines to straighten the facts out, because the stations here know nothing.
posted by Kevin Sanders at 11:52 AM on March 19, 2002

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