A man who went into full cardiac arrest died aboard a flight from Dallas to John Wayne Airport late Tuesday morning, authorities said, despite the attempts of fellow passengers and crew members to revive him.
John Selner, 78, of Fort Worth, Texas, was pronounced dead at 11:45 a.m., shortly after the flight had landed, according to the Orange County Coroner's Office.
He was traveling with his wife and son, according to Cpt. Steve Concialdi, spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority.
Airport spokeswoman Jenny Wedge wrote in an email that crew members aboard the inbound American Airlines flight told JWA officials that a passenger was in the midst of a medical emergency at about 11:20 a.m.
Concialdi said that once fellow passengers realized that Selner was in distress, some with medical credentials leaped into action, asking to use the plane's automated external defibrillator.
"That was outstanding," he said. "They were just off-duty passengers with medical experience, and they came forward."
After about 15 minutes of administering shocks with the device, its readings flatlined, Concialdi said.
"So they covered him with a blanket," Concialdi said. He added that once the plane landed, Fire Authority paramedics boarded and determined that there was nothing more they could do for the man.
Selner was taken to a secure place in the terminal until officials from the coroner's office — who were already en route — arrived, Wedge wrote.
Two Orange County Fire Authority chaplains, as well as volunteer grief counselors through Orange County's Trauma Intervention Program, stayed for a few hours, comforting Selner's family and other passengers, Concialdi said.
The incident did not affect any other airport operations, Wedge wrote.
Typically during an in-flight medical emergency, the pilot or crew will notify local air traffic controllers or an airport's air traffic control tower if the plane is close enough, according to Wedge.
Then, air traffic controllers call emergency personnel as airport operations staff members help coordinate gates or other logistics. That way, first responders can be ready to board the plane to provide any further medical aid that might be necessary.
Airport emergency teams respond to a variety of medical situations "almost daily," Wedge explained, and passengers can usually be treated on site or taken to a local hospital.
"Unfortunately," she wrote, "that was not the case today."