SANTA ANA (CBS/AP) — A Newport Beach woman filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against Southwest Airlines, claiming crew members mistook her husband’s medical emergency for unruly behavior aboard a California flight and didn’t assist him.
Richard Ilczyszyn, 46, was found unconscious after the flight from Oakland to Orange County landed last year, and he died the next day at a hospital, according to the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court by his wife, Kelly Ilczyszyn, herself a Southwest Airlines flight attendant. He had suffered a blood clot.
Kelly Ilczyszyn, who is on leave from Southwest, has worked for the airline for 16 years and, coincidentally, met her husband while working as a flight attendant on the Chicago-to-Oakland route, said her attorney, Andrew J. Spielberger.
“I feel let down by my work family,” she said. “They dropped the ball. This crew made horrible decisions and came to conclusions that weren’t based on accurate assessments.”
Southwest Airlines said in a statement that it was saddened to learn of the death, but its flight attendants handled the incident “appropriately and professionally.”
Ilczyszyn ran to the bathroom about 10 minutes before the September 2014 flight was set to land, according to the lawsuit, which also names his three kids as plaintiffs. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Crew members heard him crying out in pain, opened the bathroom door, but then closed it again and treated the incident as a passenger disruption, the suit says.
“They just misread this, sat on their hands and this family has to suffer as a result of their particular negligence,” said the family’s attorney, Browne Greene.
Orange County sheriff’s officials boarded the plane after it landed, but the crew had wrongly told them a passenger had barricaded himself in the bathroom, so they decided to get everyone off before opening the bathroom door, the suit says. The process took about 30 minutes, and Richard Ilczyszyn was found unconscious.
Southwest Airlines said the crew tried to reach him to provide assistance and the pilot arranged for first responders to meet the flight when it landed.
The lawsuit says the first responders did not include paramedics.
Doctors determined Richard Ilczyszyn had been deprived of oxygen to his brain for about 33 minutes while on the plane, according to the suit.
Ilczyszyn was a financial trader who appeared on CNBC.
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