A four month old passenger on a United flight traveling from Denver to El Paso, Texas required hospitalization after he became overcome by heat in the cabin while it was waiting for take-off. The boys mother, Emily France, told The Denver Post that her baby became overheated after they waited nearly two hours inside an airplane that was delayed on the tarmac at Denver International Airport, and that it took an estimated 30 minutes to leave the plane once she requested an ambulance.
In an interview with the Denver Post, the boy’s mother said, “They were not equipped to handle it. They couldn’t evacuate us. It was chaos. I really thought my son was going to die in my arms.”
The National Weather Service reported a temperature of at least 90 degrees outside at the time of the incident on Thursday, June 22. France’s son, Owen, was treated at Children’s Hospital. According to France, doctors said the boy has no underlying medical condition but was suffering from the heat.
In a written statement, United said, “A child onboard flight 4644 at Denver International Airport experienced a medical issue while the aircraft was taxiing prior to takeoff. The pilot returned to the gate as our crew called for paramedics to meet the aircraft. Our thoughts are with the child and family, and we have been in contact to offer travel assistance.” The flight was conducted by Trans States Airlines doing business as United Express.
France boarded their 1:50pm flight at around 1:20pm, one of the first passengers to board; she took her seat at the rear of the aircraft. There was no air conditioning on the aircraft and only hot air blew from the vents, according to France. At first, the mother used wet wipes on the baby’s neck and shirt to cool him down. But with the plane sitting there even longer to allow for additional fuel to be added, the heat worsened. Flight attendants brought ice in a garbage bag to place on the baby, but his condition deteriorated.
“His whole body flashed red and his eyes rolled back in his head and he was screaming,” France told the Denver Post. “And then he went limp in my arms. It was the worst moment of my life.”
France and other passengers begged for an ambulance, which were eventually called and were sent to meet the plane. Crew members allowed France to take Owen to the front of the aircraft, where she said she held the infant in front of the open door. Flight attendants brought more bags of ice, she said. Another woman traveling with a baby removed her child’s clothes and was holding a bag of ice against the child’s chest, she said. Denver International Airport said a call for an ambulance was finally made at 2:49pm, nearly 80 minutes after the time the child originally boarded the aircraft.
Parents know they should never leave their children in a parked car, especially in the summer. According to the American College of Emergency Phyisicans (ACEP), sunlight and heat on a day as “cool” as 80 degrees can warm the interior of an automobile to 131 degrees in a short period of time. According to ACEP, a child’s body can get up to 106 degrees in just 10 minutes in such heat, leading to damage to the brain and vital organs, heat stroke, dehydration, seizures, and possibly death. Without proper air conditioning, the conditions on a plane can be just as bad and just as deadly.