American Airlines: Family Sues After 25-Year-Old Woman Falls Ill and Dies After Pilot Refused to Divert

The family of a 25-year-old woman who died after falling ill on an American Airlines flight that a pilot allegedly refused to divert to get her the medical attention she needed, has launched a wrongful death lawsuit against the airline.

Brittany Oswell, a newlywed nurse from South Carolina, had been flying home from Hawaii with her husband on American Airlines flight A102 on April 16, 2016, when she started to feel "dizzy and disoriented," the lawsuit states, according to ABC.

After Oswell fainted, a doctor on board thought she was suffering from a panic attack, court documents state. A few hours later, however, Oswell's conditioned worsened, with the 25-year-old collapsing on the floor of a lavatory. 

The doctor who had initially examined her alerted the flight crew and said they should notify the pilot and divert the plane to the nearest airport, so Oswell could receive proper medical attention. 

At the time, the plane had been flying over Albuquerque, N.M., but instead of attempting to land there, the pilot consulted with a second doctor on board and ultimately decided to continue on to the flight's destination in Dallas-Forth Worth, which was another 90 minutes away, according to the lawsuit.

During those 90 minutes, Oswell's condition continued to deteriorate, until she stopped breathing and had no pulse. 

The doctor who had been helping her attempted to use medical equipment kept on board, but found one blood pressure machine to be broken, while the other had an error message. The doctor tried to use the defibrillator on board, but after three attempts, the lawsuit says no shock was administered. 

Flight crew and the doctor tried administering CPR to Oswell in turns, but the 25-year-old never regained consciousness. 

When the flight landed 90 minutes after Oswell's health issues became apparent, the nurse was rushed to Baylor Medical Center, but her life could not be saved. She was declared brain dead and taken off life support on April 18, three days later. 

The lawsuit says her cause of death was determined to be an acute massive pulmonary embolism and cardiogenic shock. 

Oswell's family and her husband filed their lawsuit against American Airlines in South Carolina on the second anniversary of her death, according to ABC News.

Tina Starks, Oswell’s mother, told ABC News her family believes her daughter could have survived had the pilot of her flight grounded the plane at the earliest possibility and sought medical help. She added that the fact that the medical equipment on the flight did not work when the doctor on board tried to use it also contributed to her death.

“We absolutely felt like this was not taken very seriously,” Starks said. “She’s no longer here to do anything with us and it’s all because someone made a business decision to keep flying a plane when she needed emergency medical help that they could not provide because of inadequacies on board the flight."

American Airlines told Newsweek it was "deeply saddened" by Oswell's death and is "looking into" the details of her family's complaint.

“We were deeply saddened by this event and our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to Mrs. Oswell’s loved ones," a spokesperson for the airline said. 

"We take the safety of our passengers very seriously and we are looking into the details of the complaint," they added.

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