Last updated: 12:24 PM ET, Tue April 21 2015

Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Southwest Airlines

Impacting Travel | Patrick Clarke | April 21, 2015

Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Southwest Airlines

Widow and Southwest Airlines flight attendant Kelly Ilczyszyn is filing a wrongful death suit against her employer, accusing the carrier of failing to act when her husband suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism onboard an Orange County, California-bound flight last September.

According to CBS News, 46-year-old financial broker Richard Ilczyszyn was deemed an unruly passenger by flight staff after he was heard groaning and crying inside the onboard bathroom.

With his foot wedged against the door, crew members allegedly left Ilczyszyn alone in the bathroom upon landing, and waited for the flight's passengers to deplane before calling paramedics to the scene. 

"He should have been helped on the aircraft," Ilczyszyn told CBS News. "One flight attendant said she opened the door and she saw the top of my husband's head and his head was down and he was just whimpering, and [she] left him there."

"The paramedics should have met the aircraft," added Ilczyszyn. "Absolutely. Absolutely. And he would be here today."

A spokesman for the budget carrier stated that airline staff are trained to treat the behavior Ilczyszyn exhibited as a security risk. 

Sara Nelson of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO backed that up. "We have been trained that any disruption in the cabin can be a diversion for another more serious security incident...and it's possible that they could not determine that that was not a serious security risk to the flight," said Nelson via CBS News.

Nonetheless the training seemingly contradicts instinct in this case, as Kelly pointed out.  

"I know if a passenger is in distress...we need to help them. We need to figure out, is he OK, does he need medical attention, what's going on. And so I was very confused why they didn't help my husband," said Ilczyszyn.

Although the airline told CBS News that staff treated the incident as a medical emergency, the incident prompted the airline to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department, which is why passengers were removed from the plane before authorities attempted to enter the bathroom. 

While it remains to be seen how the suit will play out, the hope is that this tragic situation can bring about positive change in airline policy in order to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

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